HOUSTON – A Houston man convicted of sex trafficking adults and minors has been sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution, authorities said.
David Mearis was charged with five separate counts of sex trafficking and was convicted back in October 2019, officials said.
On Monday, the 45-year-old was sentenced “to life in federal prison on each count to run concurrently. He was further ordered to pay $921,680 in restitution to the victims,” according to a news release.
Officials said the evidence heard in court spanned from 2007 through 2016, and four of his victims testified saying he “won them over with gifts and kindness before using threats, sexual abuse and physical force to compel them into prostitution.”
Victim testimonies revealed that Mearis had met two of the victims when they were in their teens and he was in their 30s. According to the news release, both considered Mearis their boyfriend at first “but were eventually forced to engage in commercial sex in north Houston. One testified that they had to engage in these acts daily and at all times of the day.”
Authorities said Mearis put at least two of the victims on peanut butter diets to “fatten them up” to work as his prostitutes. The victims also reported acts of physical violence when they did not comply or perform sexual acts as instructed, officials said.
One victim testified that Mearis would not let her have relationships with anyone outside his circle and when her grandfather died, she was only allowed to go to the funeral if he went with her.
“In trying to find the right word to describe the experience, she testified she felt ‘kidnapped’ at the time and called him in court a ‘threat to young women.’
“I felt like I had met the devil,” she said.
During the hearing, officials said two victims also gave statements, one even calling him the devil.
“I was fearing for my life not knowing how to escape the humiliation that was going on,” she said. “I have been mentally and physically abused.”
Another woman said, “Many days I thought might be my last, being beat as if not human. I ask that you ensure that no other human has to be subject to the threat of Mr. Mearis. He has created distress and trauma to one too many women…”
An FBI special agent called Mearis a “career pimp” and said he even “stooped to a new kind of low by taking advantage of one of the girls who had a learning disability and the mental capacity of a child.”
Mearis will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.