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Longtime Iowa businessman sentenced in sex trafficking case

December 21, 2021 GMT

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — 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, 71, of Council Bluffs, was sentenced Thursday after being found guilty in July of six counts of human trafficking and one count of distribution of a controlled substance to a minor.

Council Bluffs police launched an investigation in August 2019 after a 14-year-old reported that Ratliff had made inappropriate sexual comments and advances. The U.S. Attorney’s office for southern Iowa said several other people were later identified as being victimized by Ratliff while they were in high school.

Federal prosecutors say that from 2012 through 2019, Ratliff used his Jimmy’s All-American Diner and rental properties to groom and recruit victims. 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.”

The diner is now closed.