Three accused leaders of a sex trafficking ring have been arrested for allegedly preying on underage girls and using drugs and physical assault to force people into prostitution. After an investigation by several law enforcement agencies, including the New York State Police, Onondaga County Sheriff’s office, Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, Tompkins County Sheriff’s office and the Attorney General's office, the three were arraigned Tuesday morning. As our Katie Gibas reports, the leader of the ring has already been arrested twice on similar charges.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Three people were arraigned Tuesday morning on what Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls a heinous crime. Eric Oliver, Jessica Moro and Tirra Pate are accused of running a sex trafficking ring that stretched through Central New York, north to Watertown and south to Ithaca.
Oliver, 30, of Syracuse, is accused of being the ring leader and even coordinating the operation from jail, even though he was warned that the calls could be recorded.
"This case is a sealed indictment that alleges, among other things, that this defendant was sex trafficking, compelling people to engage in acts of prostitution by providing them with narcotics, such as cocaine and heroin. In another instance, through intimidating a person to act as a prostitute by beating that person," said James Mindell, an Assistant Deputy Attorney General, as he addressed the court Tuesday morning.
The AG's office alleges the organization preyed on and recruited girls as young as 15.
Oliver is also charged with compelling prostitution of a 15-year old, promoting prostitution and statutory rape of a 15-year old.
Jessica Moro, 19, of Cicero, was arraigned on charges of promoting prostitution and conspiracy.
"My client is one of the victims in this matter. Her parents are here today in the courtroom. They've accepted her back into the house. She's living with them. She's employed. She's scheduled to take an LPN test on the 24th," said Michael McDermott, Moro's Lawyer, as he addressed Judge Anthony Aloi.
Mindell countered, "I can't tell you how many phone conversations I've listened to between her and Eric Oliver as Eric Oliver was incarcerated trying to get her to put money into his account over and over and over again. They talked about how she was to take this group of prostitutes to one place to work, another group of prostitutes to another place to work. She was to get cocaine and heroin to give to a prostitute so Eric Oliver could get money for that. That's not a victim. That's a victimizer."
McDermott asked for bail to be set at $1,000. Mindell requested it be set at $20,000. Aloi ended up setting bail at $25,000.
Tirra Pate, 19, of Syracuse, has been charged with sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and conspiracy.
Attorney General Schneiderman said in a press release, “Unfortunately, this case is emblematic of the horrors of human trafficking, which is an issue of international importance. We must redouble our efforts to protect people forced into a horrible life from which they feel they can’t escape."
New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico is quoted in the same release, saying, "This modern day type of slavery will not be tolerated in New York State. While human trafficking can be a difficult crime to detect, public awareness and the continued hard work of law enforcement and agencies will continue to bring these groups to justice."
Oliver and Pate were denied bail.
All three suspects are due in Judge John Brunetti's court Monday morning.
If convicted on the sex trafficking charge alone, Oliver and Pate would face a sentence 10 to 25 years in prison.
Below is the official list of charges:
Oliver faces charges including two counts of Sex Trafficking, a Class B felony that can land him in prison for 10 to 25 years; Compelling Prostitution, another Class B felony; Promoting Prostitution in the 2nd and 3rd Degrees, Class C and D felonies; Rape in the 3rd Degree, a Class E felony, and Conspiracy in the 5th Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor.
Moro faces facing charges of Promoting Prostitution in the 2nd and 3rd Degrees, Class C and D felonies, and Conspiracy in the 5th Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor.
Pate faces facing charges of Sex Trafficking, which is a Class B felony; Promoting Prostitution in the 3rd Degree, a Class D felony, and Conspiracy in the 5th Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor.
The investigation was conducted by Senior Investigator Peter Burns of the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit, Investigator Michael Pastuf of the New York State Police, Troop D Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Detective Dawn Daly of the Syracuse Police Missing Persons Unit. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office also provided valuable assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General and Senior Investigative Counsel James J. Mindell, under the supervision of OCTF Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.
Check out the full indictment below:
Attorney General Schneiderman comments on the case:
YNN CNY: Three busted in alleged sex trafficking ring
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