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What Do Diddy's Sex Trafficking Accusations Mean? A Legal Expert Explains

Diddy has not been charged with a crime, but his homes were raided by federal authorities

<p>Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage</p> Sean "Diddy" Combs

Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Sean "Diddy" Combs

The rapper and music executive Sean “Diddy” Combs is facing a slew of sexual abuse allegations in several lawsuits, including some complaints that allege he trafficked victims.

Diddy’s legal troubles mounted last week when federal agents raided his homes in Miami and Los Angeles, though no charges have yet been filed. Homeland Security Investigations New York, which executed the search warrants, did not reveal many details about the searches, just that they were "part of an ongoing investigation," a spokesperson previously told PEOPLE.

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In December, Diddy released a statement obtained by PEOPLE vehemently denying the lawsuits that had been filed up until that point. (The first lawsuit against Diddy was filed in November.)

“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. For the last couple of weeks, I have sat silently and watched people try to assassinate my character, destroy my reputation and my legacy,” Diddy wrote. “Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday.”

Related: A Timeline of Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Sexual Assault Allegations and Lawsuits

But what is sex trafficking, exactly? The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking in a federal statute: “The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Neama Rahmani, a California-based attorney and former federal prosecutor, says the sex trafficking allegations are potentially the most serious ones Diddy faces, especially if he is ultimately charged with a sex trafficking crime.

“Under federal law, sex trafficking carries very significant penalties,” Rahmani says, noting that the maximum sentence is life in prison.

The lawsuit that first accused Diddy of sex trafficking was filed by his ex, the singer Casandra Ventura, better known as Cassie. She claimed Diddy subjected her to sex trafficking by forcing her to engage in sexual acts with sex workers and filmed the encounters, which he allegedly called “freak-offs.”

<p>Dia Dipasupil/Getty</p> Sean "Diddy" Combs

Dia Dipasupil/Getty

Sean "Diddy" Combs

A settlement agreement between the two was reached the next day. After the settlement, Diddy’s attorney Ben Brafman told PEOPLE in a statement at the time that the agreement was “in no way an admission of wrongdoing.”

Cassie’s complaint alleged that Diddy would beat her during “freak-offs” and that “between the physical beating and recognizing his incredible power and incredible temper,” she felt that she was unable to say no to him. Further, she claimed Diddy would give her gifts before or during the encounters, which the complaint alleges reflected a gesture to compensate her for “work.”

Rahmani, who has prosecuted human trafficking cases in the past, says the threat of violence to compel a person to engage in a sexual act could constitute sex trafficking, as laid out in the statute.

“If you’re looking at [Cassie’s] allegations that she was raped, that she was forced to take drugs, that she was forced to have sex with male prostitutes while [Diddy] recorded, that’s how you sort of get to the force angle,” Rahmani says. “If there is force, it’s sex trafficking.”

Related: Biggest Bombshells from Diddy's Lawsuits: Disturbing Allegations of Rape, Sex Trafficking and More

A lawsuit filed on Dec. 6 by a woman identified as Jane Doe alleges that when she was 17, Diddy, former Bad Boy Entertainment President Harve Pierre and a third unnamed defendant trafficked her by flying her from Michigan to Diddy’s studio in New York City, where she claims she was “viciously gang raped.”

An attorney for Pierre did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.

Rahmani says that if true, Doe's allegations might fall under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which specifies that trafficking applies to alleged victims under the age of 18.

<p>Paras Griffin/Getty</p> Sean "Diddy" Combs

Paras Griffin/Getty

Sean "Diddy" Combs

In February, Diddy and several other associates were named as defendants in a lawsuit that accused the Bad Boy founder of sex trafficking as well as several other serious allegations including sexual assault, by producer Rodney “Lil’ Rod” Jones.

Related: Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Homes Raided by Federal Law Enforcement amid Sex Trafficking Lawsuits

Diddy’s attorney Shawn Holley released a strong denial, obtained by PEOPLE.

“Lil Rod is nothing more than a liar who filed a $30 million lawsuit shamelessly looking for an undeserved payday. His reckless name-dropping about events that are pure fiction and simply did not happen is nothing more than a transparent attempt to garner headlines," Holley said, claiming he had “indisputable proof” the claims were false.

<p>David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty</p> Cassie

David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty

Cassie

While no indictments have been filed, Rahmani says he would not be surprised if criminal charges were filed soon based on the timing of the raids.

“They’re not going to go get search warrants for Diddy’s home in L.A. and Miami unless they’re very close to arresting him,” Rahmani believes.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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Read the original article on People.