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Man who sold 16-year-old to accused pimp says he planned to split cash with her

Desiree Robinson

Desiree Robinson. | Provided photo

Charles McFee said he met Joseph Hazley by the lakefront in the summer of 2016.

They’d hang out, listening to music and “trying to pick up females,” he said.

Eventually, McFee said, Hazley “asked me if I knew any females that was trying to make some money.” Hazley wanted McFee to bring them to him, McFee said. And in exchange, Hazley allegedly offered McFee a finder’s fee of $250.

That, McFee testified Thursday, is how 16-year-old Desiree Robinson eventually wound up with Hazley, who allegedly marketed her for sex on Backpage.com until she was brutally murdered by a client on Christmas Eve 2016. In a twist, though, McFee said he and Robinson had concocted a ruse to trick Hazley and split the finder’s fee. Robinson wound up sticking with Hazley, McFee said.

McFee became the first person last year convicted in connection with Robinson’s murder — a crime that became symbolic of the national fight against Backpage. McFee pleaded guilty to a sex-trafficking conspiracy and could be facing roughly six years in prison, even with credit for his testimony against Hazley.

Robinson’s accused killer, Antonio Rosales, is still awaiting trial in state court. The feds seized Backpage last year, and its founders are under indictment. Hazley faces several charges related to his alleged trafficking of Robinson and two other victims.

McFee said he met Robinson through Facebook in 2016, and they quickly began meeting in person. Robinson, he said, claimed to be 18 years old. Late in the year, McFee said, Robinson had arranged to perform a commercial sex act on her own, and McFee said he drove her to her date. However, he said, it fell through.

To make some quick money, McFee said he suggested taking Robinson to Hazley’s house, where McFee planned to collect the finder’s fee in exchange for Robinson. Then, McFee said he expected he’d be able to leave for a liquor store with the girl. He said he schemed with Robinson to make it look like she ran away while they were running their errand. Later, they would meet up and split the money.

McFee said he planned to keep $50 of the $250.

Instead, when they arrived, Hazley asked Robinson if she was sure she wanted to have sex for money, McFee said. When she agreed, Hazley allegedly asked another woman who worked for him, nicknamed “Winter,” to get Robinson some nice clothes. Hazley then uploaded photos of Robinson to Backpage and gave Robinson the nickname “Nicki,” McFee said.

Meanwhile, McFee said he hung around Hazley’s house for an hour or two. Eventually, he said Hazley told him Robinson wanted to join his “team.” McFee said he eventually left Hazley’s house alone.

McFee said he still hoped to get his money, though. He said he asked Hazley about the finder’s fee repeatedly, only to hear Hazley complain about the cost of Robinson’s hair, nails and clothing, and that he was being “low-balled” by customers.

By then, McFee said Robinson had stopped speaking to him. She was “with Joseph,” McFee said. So McFee planned to keep the entire $250, if he ever put his hands on it.

“I just said, might as well just keep it for myself,” McFee testified.

But he said he never got it.