Sandy woman convicted in sex trafficking bust

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Sandy woman has pleaded guilty for her role in what federal prosecutors have called a sex trafficking operation.

Ashley Poike, 23, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. She admitted in court to taking three girls under 17 to Idaho and creating online ads for them, collecting money from men who paid to have sex with the girls (one of whom, prosecutors said, babysat Poike's children).

Poike is among eight people indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with sex trafficking charges.

Poike cried in court as federal prosecutors spoke about a situation that recently made her the victim of a crime -- the deaths of her mother and baby in a triple-murder in Salt Lake City in September. Police have said the deaths are not connected to the trafficking case.

"I am sorry for what I did," she said, blaming part of her crime on a longstanding drug problem.

"I have been making changes because of my mom and my daughter," Poike said. "I am blessed for what you guys are doing here, because it could be ten times worse."

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U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson sentenced Poike to seven years in federal prison, three years probation and drug and mental health treatment. Judge Benson said he learned through news media coverage of Poike's connection to the triple murder.

"The court expresses its sympathy," he told her.

An acquaintance of Poike, who sat in court through the plea and sentencing, told FOX 13 outside of court that she did not feel it was enough.

"She's had a tough life, but she's the one that went (down) that road," said the woman, who did not want her face or name used.

Assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah Rob Lunnen described Poike as "cooperative" in the cases pending against the other defendants.

"It certainly is a tragedy and it had to be considered in some way," he said of the homicides.

The conviction came the same day the Utah Attorney General's Office announced it had secured a $1.2 million grant to combat human trafficking in the state. The money will be split between the attorney general's anti-trafficking task force and the Asian Association of Utah, which will provide victim services.