He was a sailor by day—and a predatory pimp by night.
On paper, Jeffrey Charwick Wright appeared to be a servicemember in good standing—sailing aboard the USS Truman and the USS Nassau, and receiving the standard service awards: the National Defense Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
But beneath all the shiny esteem, the 25-year-old Wright led a seedy double life.
And this week the former U.S. Navy sailor copped to a plea, sending him to five years in the big house by a U.S. district judge in Norfolk, Virginia, for forcing an underage HIV-positive teenager to turn tricks through three states.
The sailor, who joined the Navy in 2008 from the small town of Warrenton, North Carolina, became a shady predator who lured a young runaway into a life of prostitution.
His lone stable was a girl from Newport News, Virginia, who had already escaped one nightmare.
Last year, the 16-year-old youth (referred to in court papers as “Jane Doe”) left one of her foster-care homes in Georgia and forged ties with a brute with a long rap sheet named Cole Jamal Daniels.
Daniels, 28, was allegedly the first to force “Jane Doe” to perform sexual acts on johns.
But soon they were both busted for prostitution last October in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Daniels is currently facing child sex-trafficking charges.
For Jane Doe though, she was heading into yet another nightmare.
Sure, she was freed from her pimp Daniels. But after quickly falling back into the foster-care system, the girl inevitably found herself vulnerable and fell into Wright’s oily clutches.
According to court papers, “[Wright] knew she was underage.”
The pair carried on their “work” relationship as borderline transients.
The papers said Wright was able to pony up for motels with his sailor salary—but much of the time the pair couch-surfed at friends’ places or crashed inside a Lincoln LS sedan car with Georgia plates and tinted windows that initially belonged to a fellow sailor who was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea.
“They were essentially living out of the car,” the papers said.
And though Wright kept a low profile for almost a year, he managed to solicit “Jane Doe” on online escort pages. The racy ads revealed the young woman’s fleshy wares—and baited would-be customers with limited-time deals to score.
One advertisement claimed: “Im only in town for the weekend. ALL PRICES STARTING AT $100.”
The Daily Beast managed to find some of the ads that remain online showcasing the girl’s pseudonyms— Honey B, Pink China, and Naomi C—and claiming that she was 19 years old.
After an advanced search, even testimonials popped up.
“The whole time she kept asking if I liked it and if I wanted more,” a repeat john posted to on one online forum, claiming “she made me feel like a king.”
There were as many as 19 reviews on this one particular site, The Daily Beast found.
None of those posts mentioned what was arguably the most disturbing fact of the case: that while “Jane Doe” was turned into a woman of the night—she somehow contracted HIV.
And it’s not clear when.
According to Wright’s federal public defender, Suzanne Katchmar, Wright quit forcing the girl to engage in prostitution once he learned she was HIV-positive.
Reached by The Daily Beast by phone Wednesday, Katchmar said she had “no comment” about the case or about Wright’s sentencing.
What’s clear is that authorities were hip to Wright’s double life as far back as February.
That’s when NCIS agents received an anonymous tip that dropped the girl’s name and stated she was only 17 and “is being prostituted” by sailor Wright.
On March 4, NCIS agents were hot on Wright’s trail and managed to find him with the youth inside of a motel room on a naval base in Norfolk, Virginia.
Once he was wearing bracelets, Wright quickly confessed to knowing that “Jane Doe” was a minor, according to court papers.
When “Jane Doe” was quizzed by authorities about her life as a sex worker and the online ads, she said Wright paid for the ads, but seized her profits every time.
“I was the prostitute, I gave the money to him.”
She said Wright, whom the girl refers to as the shorthand “J,” also sensed that the heat was on.
“J knew you all were following the Lincoln.”
Once in jail, Wright tried to cover his tracks, even stooping so low as to coerce his mother to help him get the parked Lincoln car. According to court testimony by the lead NCIS investigator, it contained various mobile phones and even valuable letters.
NCIS managed to eavesdrop on phone calls Wright made to his mother, Valerie Burgess.
In those calls, Wright told his mom to seek power of attorney over the car and get a duplicate key and move it off the naval base in Norfolk.
She recruited some of Wright’s Navy buddies and, according to the papers, drove the car off the base—all before NCIS agents could get a search warrant. (Calls to Burgess to comment on this story were not returned.)
While in prison, authorities recorded another conversation in which Wright’s mother told her son, “The Lincoln is with me here in North Carolina.”
The same Lincoln was loaned to Wright’s stepfather, James Bernard Durham, also known as JD.
In another phone call two days later, Wright asked his mom who had the car.
“Is JD getting the car today?” he asked, referring to Durham.
His mother confirmed, “JD has it now.”
That same Lincoln was later found—cleaned out of the mobile phones and letters and sitting on a dealer’s lot.
When agents came to Burgess’s doorstep to fetch the evidence from the car, Burgess claimed her home had been burglarized.
The only item stolen, she told the NCIS agent, was a note that was originally inside the Lincoln that she claimed “would prove that he was innocent.”
Before getting nabbed for the sex-trafficking charges, Wright was stopped in Gaithersburg, Maryland, last December by local cops, who, aside from citing him for the high-decibel of his stereo, found a stash of pot.
Because Wright was a no-show in criminal court to face the loud music and pot bust he already had an outstanding warrant.
And yet Wright and his teenage sex worker managed to work the highways in several states including North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia.
And prior to that, Wright had popped on the Navy’s radar for possessing “unauthorized oxycodone without prescription.”
That lapse—plus the recent arrest—ended Wright’s six-year Navy career.
He officially became a civilian on March 21 of this year.
Now he will remain a convict for the rest of the decade.
Editor's Note: This story had been amended to clarify Jeffrey Wright's Naval service.