CLEVELAND, Ohio — The FBI was watching as a man tried to sell a teenager inside a downtown coffee shop.
Federal prosecutors have now released the undercover video of the transaction. Eric Tutstone, 44, was convicted of “sex trafficking a child” and sentenced on Tuesday to 11 years in prison.
Investigators say Tutstone was talking to a woman he thought was running a sex trafficking ring, unaware she had a hidden camera and working for the FBI. They say he was trying to sell a 16-year-old girl he befriended in his neighborhood in August 2010.
“She was upset. She was apparently being bothered by something, a family disagreement or something, and Eric Tutstone jumped out of a bush and started a conversation with her,” said FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson.
FBI agents say Tutstone needed some “pocket change,” so he arranged to sell the girl to the woman for $300.
Before a meeting, the woman spoke to the girl on the phone.
WOMAN: “It’s good money involved; there is sex.”
WOMAN: “But it’s all forms of sex; I got the phone sex, the actual sex…whatever.”
WOMAN: “So do you understand that?”
GIRL: “Yes, I understand.”
December 2010, Tutstone met with the so-called madam at a Starbucks on West 6th Street in downtown Cleveland.
“I was just gonna wash my hands of her, and not be over her for that 300, and let you have it,” Tutstone tells the woman.
At one point, Tutstone got suspicious. “I almost feel like this is a sting or something; I’m about to get set the (expletive) up,” he says.
“He also said that he had others that he was willing to sell for three thousand next time,” said Anderson.
But Tutstone kept going. He left, picked up the girl after school and returned to the coffee shop several hours later.
After the money was exchanged, everyone left. Tutstone was arrested around the corner. The woman took the teenager in the other direction where FBI agents were waiting.
“It’s a good thing for that 16-year-old that we were the ones that were actually posing as the person that was buying her because if we weren’t, and another bad guy was, that young girl could be who knows where now,” Anderson said.
“I just had to go in there and get her, that’s all I know. I got her…she’s safe,” the informant is heard telling FBI agents after she gets into their car.
Investigators say the girl’s mother worked, so Tutstone spent time with her after school, gaining her trust and grooming her over several months.
The FBI says the girl is back with her family, back in school and doing well.
This story was provided by WJW affiliate reporter Kevin Freeman.