MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) –  A man and a woman from North Carolina are facing a penalty of life in prison for their alleged involvement in child sex trafficking and abuse in the Myrtle Beach area.

Johnny Thomas, 34, of Durham, NC, and Becca Mills, 25, of Whispering Pines, NC, have been charged in a criminal complaint for their roles in alleged child sex trafficking and coercion and enticement of minors in the Myrtle Beach area.

According to court records, Thomas and Mills posted commercial sex ads for minors and took the minors to locations in Myrtle Beach and Fayetteville, NC, where the minors engaged in commercial sexual encounters with other individuals.

Mills also participated in many of the sexual encounters, and Thomas engaged in sexual acts with one of the minors on at least two occasions.

Court records also reflect that Mills told one of the minors that if the minor did what she was told, Thomas would not hurt her. According to the complaint, Thomas told one of the minors numerous times that if she did not perform commercial sex acts, he would sell her to someone worse who would chain her up to a bed, shoot her full of heroin, and do bad things to her such as slice off her toes and body parts. 

Both defendants face a maximum penalty of life, according to Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart.

15th Circuit Solicitor, Jimmy Richardson, said there haven’t been many local arrests for trafficking and drug cases which is why he pushed for the case to be federally prosecuted.

He said sex and human trafficking have been growing issues in the Myrtle Beach area. According to Richardson, more trafficking and drug cases are being sent to federal courts.

Richardson said this is the best way to approach these types of cases.

“I don’t know that the state of South Carolina could make a tougher human trafficking law,” said Richardson.

“They’ve done a fantastic job of that. The feds are better simply because the circumstances, in this case, involve more than one state,” he said. Richardson said state prosecutors are still involved in the case.

The case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Rockingham Police Department, and the Myrtle Beach Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorneys Derek A. Shoemake and Lauren Hummel and Special Assistant United States Attorney Scott Hixson are prosecuting the case.

The case was originally prosecuted by the Solicitor’s Office for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, and will be federally prosecuted as part of a collaborative effort by federal and state partners in the Myrtle Beach area to combat sex trafficking and child exploitation.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. 

If you or someone you know may have information relevant to this investigation, please call the HSI Tipline at 1-866-347-3423.