Crime & Justice

Fairbanks man held on $200K bail for sex assault, trafficking charges

A Fairbanks man facing seven counts of sex trafficking and sexual assault is being held on $200,000 bail in what Alaska authorities describe as a string of offenses uncovered by a six-month investigation.

Alaska State Troopers said in a Wednesday dispatch that Benjamin Bane, 32, was arrested after the probe of "street-level prostitution and sex trafficking in the Fairbanks and Anchorage areas." The investigation was conducted by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation's Special Crimes Investigations Unit, as well as the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals.

Court records show Bane charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault as well as five counts of sex trafficking -- one each in the first and second degree, plus three in the third. The alleged offenses include inducing people over the age of 20 to engage in prostitution, procuring customers and accepting proceeds from prostitution.

All of the charges are felonies.

"The investigation demonstrated that (Bane) committed several crimes, including sexual assault and sex trafficking," troopers wrote. "The acts included violence and narcotics use."

In a bail memorandum filed Tuesday requesting the $200,000 sum, prosecutors quote testimony from a woman who told investigators she was trafficked by Bane from fall 2010 through spring 2015.

"During that time the victim was subject to frequent physical and sexual assaults at the hands of Bane, who relied upon her earnings in the sex trade to support his own drug habit," prosecutors wrote.

She said he sexually assaulted her on two occasions, including one when she refused to have sex with him and a second when "she was not able to service clients to Bane's satisfaction as a result of a miscarriage and associated complications."

The woman said Bane also took all of the money she made while being trafficked, and would punish her for any expenditures.

"On one occasion, the victim used $20 of the $60 she had earned on a date to buy drinks at a local bar," prosecutors wrote. "When Bane discovered that she was $20 short, she was beaten."

According to prosecutors, Bane's prior Alaska convictions include violating a domestic-violence protective order and reckless endangerment in 2015, as well as fourth-degree assault and making a false report in 2010.

Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander at OSPA said Wednesday that the charges against Bane represent just one of several recent sex trafficking cases that his office has been aggressively prosecuting.

"We're taking these types of cases very seriously," Alexander said. "If anybody out there has been involved in sex trafficking, they can reach out to us at ABI and the Special Crimes Investigation Unit."

After an Anchorage grand jury returned an indictment against Bane on Tuesday, a $200,000 warrant -- including $100,000 each in cash and performance bonds, with a court-approved third-party custodian required for release -- was issued for his arrest. Troopers picked Bane up at a Fairbanks motel without incident; he was listed as in custody at the Fairbanks Correctional Center in an online inmate database Wednesday morning.

"Other potential victims have been identified and the investigation continues," troopers wrote.

State officials encourage anyone who has been sexually trafficked, by Bane or anyone else, to report it to their local authorities.