N.C. woman sentenced to time served in prostitution ring case

Matthew Lane • Aug 29, 2013 at 11:10 PM

GREENEVILLE — A North Carolina woman who drove three young women to Nashville last fall to be prostitutes has about two more weeks of incarceration before being released.

Alexandra Nicole Berte, 20, of Midway Park, N.C., was charged in a two-count indictment in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in October 2012. The charges include transporting individuals for prostitution and inducing travel to engage in prostitution.

Berte, who has been detained since her arrest, agreed to plead guilty to the transporting charge back in April. During a sentencing hearing on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer sentenced Berte to time served as of Sept. 13. Greer also ordered Berte to be on home detention with electronic monitoring for six months, complete the requirements for a GED and be on supervised release for three years. She faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Greer imposed no fine, but ruled Berte must forfeit the $400 cash and 37 gift cards seized during her arrest.

According to court records, Tennessee Highway Patrol officers stopped Berte for speeding on Interstate 40 in Cocke County in September 2012.

Berte was traveling with three women, ages 18, 27 and 29, to Nashville to engage in prostitution.

Berte told the troopers the vehicle was a rental car, though the man the vehicle was leased to was not present in the vehicle and in fact, the rental was overdue. Troopers then ran Berte’s name through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center and discovered she was reported missing by the Wilmington, N.C., Police Department.

“Berte appeared extremely nervous (to the troopers) and could identify one passenger in her car ... and claimed she did not know the identities of the two passengers in the back seat,” court records state.

After noticing several other suspicious indicators, troopers gained consent to search the vehicle and found $400 in cash, 37 gift cards, a small quantity of marijuana and five cell phones with calls and text messages indicative of prostitution.

“Multiple photographs of (Berte), holding large sums of American currency, standing with her boss pimp and other prostitutes, establish her role in the criminal enterprise,” a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors state.

Berte claimed the gift cards were sent to her by her “baby daddy” as child support approved by a North Carolina court. Prosecutors said Berte has an extensive juvenile arrest record, including battery, assault, domestic violence, theft and drugs in Florida, North Carolina and New York.

Later in the day, THP investigators interviewed Berte and the 18-year-old girl and learned more about the prostitution scheme.

Investigators said Berte persuaded the 18-year-old girl to come with her to “make some money,” driving from Lumberton, N.C., to Wilmington, N.C.

A subsequent interview of one of the victims resulted in an inconsistent statement, court records state.

While in Wilmington, the girls stayed at two hotels, and over a three-day period, the 18-year-old provided sexual services to 34 men, charging them each between $120 to $200. Prosecutors said the 18-year-old asked Berte to take her home but that she refused and kept all of the money earned by the girls.

According to the plea agreement, Berte became a prostitute some time during 2011 and operated makeshift brothels in hotels in Wilmington and Winston-Salem, N.C., prior to the attempted trip to Nashville.

In a sentencing memorandum filed by Berte’s attorney, the breakdown of Berte’s parents’ marriage in 1999 and the resulting, bitter divorce had a negative and devastating impact on her. Over the next seven years, there were reports made to the State of Florida (where the family lived) of possible sexual and physical abuse, substance abuse, trauma related to family violence, parental neglect, and a report of Berte witnessing an abusive altercation between her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.

At age 14, Berte was placed in state custody for the next four years and a psychological examiner described her as a child with “Emotional Behavioral Disabilities.”

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