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Man sentenced to 17 1/2 years for trafficking 14-year-old girl, threatening to shoot her if she told

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 17:57:52-04

A man in Parma was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison for sexually exploiting a minor, according to Acting U.S. Attorney David Sierleja and Special Agent Stephen Anthony.

Richard Purnell, 56, was convicted of sex trafficking of children by a jury last year. 

Purnell also threatened to shoot the minor, a 14-year-old girl, with a shotgun if she ever told anyone about him having sex with her.

RELATED: OH man allegedly paid for sex with 14-year-old girl and threatened to shoot the girl if she told

"This is a child rapist who deserves every day of this prison sentence," Sierleja said. "This case is further proof that human trafficking happens all around us. We will go after customers as well as people who profit from human trafficking."

"Purnell chose to repeatedly victimize a 14-year-old girl for his own sexual gratification without any regard for what is legally or morally acceptable," Anthony said. 

Authorities say Purnell repeatedly engaged in commercial sex acts with the 14-year-old girl, even after she told him her age. Her images were posted on backpage.com by Ronnie Pratt. She was advertised as a college girl who had a "thing for older men." Pratt is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to sex trafficking charges.

Law enforcement was able to arrest Purnell after the girl told them he was a regular customer in Parma.

The Purnell case is the first time a customer has been prosecuted federally in a human trafficking case in the Northern District of Ohio.

Verizon cell phone records show Purnell engaged in 5,854 text messages and 204 voice calls with numbers used in backpage.com escort ads between July 2, 2015 and February 21, 2016. The FBI says at least 1,010 of those communications were with at least three juveniles.