Crime & Courts

Former Woodstock woman accused of sex trafficking 15-year-old girl

Sheila E. Johnston
Sheila E. Johnston

ROUND LAKE BEACH – A former Woodstock woman who was previously charged in McHenry County faces new charges in Lake County, where she is accused of sex-trafficking a 15-year-old girl, police said.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Special Investigations Group concluded a long-term investigation into the sex-trafficking of a girl after receiving a tip from Round Lake Beach Police.

During the course of the investigation, SSIG detectives said they found that Sheila E. Johnston, 33, of the 1200 block of Sunset Drive, Round Lake Beach, was potentially prostituting a 15-year-old girl with whom she previously held legal guardianship over, according to a news release.

On July 12, Johnston posted an advertisement on a website offering the girl to participate in sexual acts in exchange for money, police said. Undercover sheriff’s detectives communicated with Johnston, and she agreed to offering the girl and herself to engage in sexual acts in exchange for money, authorities said. 

Johnston took the juvenile to a hotel in Waukegan, where she met with someone she thought was a customer, but was really an undercover detective, police said. During the meeting, Johnston offered both herself and the girl to engage in sexual acts for money. After the agreement, Johnston was placed under arrest and the girl was taken into protective custody.

The girl was transported to a shelter and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has taken protective custody of her. 

Johnston was subsequently charged with trafficking in persons, involuntary sexual servitude of a minor, promoting juvenile prostitution and prostitution.

Police continued their investigation after Johnston was arrested, and learned she had posted an ad online earlier in the year, seeking to traffic the same minor to the Miami, Florida area, Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Christopher Covelli said Friday.

Johnston was arrested in a separate 2015 case out of McHenry County, where she was charged with prostitution and child endangerment.

The charges stemmed from an investigation during which Johnston agreed to perform sex acts in exchange for money with an undercover officer posing as a customer. Johnston was charged with two counts of endangering the life and health of a child because of the children’s presence during Johnston’s prostitution attempt, police said at the time.

She ultimately accepted a deal from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office and pleaded guilty in 2015 to child endangerment.

As a result, additional prostitution and drug-related charges were dismissed. Johnston was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and ordered to attend parenting classes, records show.

She remained at the Lake County Jail on Friday afternoon on a $1 million. Johnston is due back in court Monday.

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