COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP/KMTV) — A longtime Iowa business owner convicted of using his diner in sex trafficking and drug crimes has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
Hershal James Ratliff of Council Bluffs was sentenced on Dec. 16 after being found guilty in July of six counts of human trafficking and one count of distribution of a controlled substance to a minor. Four of the six counts of human trafficking were against minors, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa.
Citing a press release by the Council Bluffs Police Department, The Daily Nonpareil reported in 2020 that the investigation into Ratliff began in August 2019, when a juvenile provided information to detectives regarding Ratliff's criminal sexual activity.
Federal prosecutors say that in a seven-year period spanning from 2012 through 2019, Ratliff, now 71, used his Jimmy’s All-American Malt Shop and Grill and rental properties to groom and recruit the victims. The diner is no longer in business.
A news release on Monday said Ratliff “convinced them to engage in various sex acts with him and his friends for money, alcohol or drugs.” Evidence presented at the trial reflected that Ratliff used force and coercion in order to obtain adult victims for his friends.
Following Ratliff's release from federal custody will be a 10-year period of supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the Council Bluffs Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.