Two men have been found guilty of sexually exploiting 12 teenage girls in Littlehampton.
Following a six week trial at Lewes Crown Court, Osmon Koroma and Max N’Gasa were convicted of involvement in series of 18 sexual exploitation offences against 12 teenage girls at locations in Littlehampton.
According to police, the two men would groom schoolgirls and request sexual acts in exchange for buying them cigarettes and alcohol.
The jury verdicts in each case were unanimous.
The offences were committed between 2010 and 2014 and the victims were aged between 13 and 15 at the time.
The case follows an investigation by Sussex Police child safeguarding detectives, working with the local authority and other partners.
Koroma, a labourer, 31, of Norton Road, Hove, (pictured left) has been convicted of eight offences against five girls. They were one rape, two sexual assaults and five offences of sexual activity with a child.
N’Gasa, a gardener, 25, of Cranmer Avenue, Hove, (pictured right) has been convicted of 10 offences against seven girls. They were; two offences of rape and eight offences of sexual activity with a child.
N’Gasa was found not guilty of one sexual assault and one offence of attempting to carry out sexual activity with a child.
They were remanded in custody for sentencing at Lewes Crown Court at 2pm on Tuesday, June 7.
Koroma and N’Gasa had been arrested on 12 March last year and were charged in October last year, following an intelligence-led child sexual exploitation investigation by detectives from the Sussex Police Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU), working with partners including West Sussex Childrens Services.
The investigation focused on reports that local teenage girls, known to the suspects, were sexually exploited between 2010 and 2014.
Detective Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell said: “Young girls were sexually abused by one or other of these defendants and sometimes by both.
“The evidence centred around a flat above a parade of shops in Wick Parade, Littlehampton. Osman Koroma lived there during those years and Max N’Gasa was his friend and a frequent visitor there. Both men befriended young schoolgirls who would frequent the shopping parade, groomed them and ultimately exploited them by requesting sexual acts in return for purchasing cigarettes and alcohol on their behalf.
“Some of the victims knew each other, but others did not, as this offending went on with numerous children over four years. Such was the level of grooming that took place, many of the girls considered that they were in relationships with the pair, despite the obvious significant age gap between them.
“Both men, when arrested and interviewed, made complete denials saying that they had never met and did not know the victims and they have maintained this position throughout the trial. In doing so, they have made their victims have to re-live their ordeals all over again by having to tell their stories in court.
“I want to pay tribute to all of the girls who had the courage to stand up in court and tell their stories. In doing so, they have undoubtedly saved other children who may have been targeted by this pair.
“This is a significant case in that it serves to send a message to those who might seek to sexually exploit children within our communities that we, Sussex Police, will work with the public and our partners to pursue offenders and bring them to justice as we have done here.
“It also serves as a message to the public that child sexual exploitation does occur in Sussex and it is important that we all understand the tell-tale signs that might suggest that a child is at risk being exploited.”
For advice and guidance from Sussex Police on how to spot and prevent child sexual exploitation, click here.
If anyone has concerns since reading about this case, contact police via email@example.com or call 101, quoting Operation Staple, and arrange to talk in confidence to experienced detectives.
You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
For sources of counselling and support for anyone affected by news of this case or any similar cases, contact the Sussex Sexual Assault Referral Clinic on 01293 600469 or on their out of hours helpline on 0800 033 7797.