- San Diego street gang ran prostitution ring across 46 cities in 23 states
- Women and girls were promised a luxury life but instead treated like slaves
- 24 San Diego residents have been arrested, most in raids across U.S.
UPDATED: 12:40 EST, 9 January 2014
A San Diego street gang operated a vast nationwide prostitution ring that spanned 46 cities in 23 states, federal prosecutors revealed on Wednesday.
The group promised luxury lifestyles to girls and women but instead they were branded with tattoos and bar codes, and treated like slaves.
‘The kind of sex trafficking described in this indictment is nothing less than modern-day slavery,’ said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy as she announced racketeering conspiracy charges for 24 people.
Scene: A San Diego ran a massive prostitution ring that subjected women to horrific conditions from the North Park neighborhood of the city
Reach: The network was run by a gang known as BMS, which traces its origins to San Diego’s increasingly gentrified North Park neighborhood in the early 1990s. The ring grew to span 46 cities in 23 states
‘Unfortunately, more gangs are expanding from traditional pursuits like drug dealing into this lucrative business,’ Duffy explained. The 24 suspects were all San Diego residents aged between 22 and 36.
Seventeen of those indicted were arrested in California, Arizona and New Jersey on Wednesday in police and FBI raids. Four other defendants were already in custody and three remained at-large.
The indictment alleges that women and girls were recruited from city streets or social media to join the sex-trafficking ring.
The victims then had to deliver their earnings to pimps in exchange for protection, food, housing, clothing and cars.
Shock: ‘The kind of sex trafficking described in this indictment is nothing less than modern-day slavery,’ said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy
The network was run by a gang known as BMS, which traces its origins to San Diego’s increasingly gentrified North Park neighborhood in the early 1990s.
BMS members have nicknames like ‘Pimpsy’ ‘Stick Up’ and ‘Li’l Play Doh,’ prosecutors said.
Members would post photos and videos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter advertising a high life of jewelry, champagne and parties.
But gang members would use threats or actual violence to force them into prostitution, and often tattooed gang monikers, pimps’ names and bar codes on them.
Authorities also seized luxury cars, dozens of Air Jordan shoes and pimp paraphernalia like diamond-studded canes, hats and chalices, much of which prosecutors said they would seek to have forfeited.
Skyline: The 24 suspects were all San Diego residents aged between 22 and 36
Many defendants, facing racketeering conspiracy charges traditionally used for organized-crime syndicates, were scheduled to make initial court appearances Thursday in San Diego.
Fourteen of those arrested could get life in prison if convicted.
The U.S. attorney’s office said authorities have offered assistance to 60 female victims, including 11 children.
A similar prosecution of a gang-run prostitution ring in nearby Oceanside in 2011 led to the indictment of 39 people 34 of whom have since pleaded guilty.
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