By AKANE OTANI
Police have busted a multi-county sex trafficking ring that preyed on women as young as 15 years old in Ithaca and other cities in New York State, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Tuesday.
One man and two women were arrested in connection with the sex trafficking. Investigators say the three individuals recruited young women to work as prostitutes — in some cases, using physical force to intimidate them, and in others, giving the women heroin, cocaine or MDMA to coerce them into working.
“There are few crimes as heinous as forcing women into prostitution and transporting them against their will,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “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.”
Schneiderman’s office described the sex trafficking ring as being “brazen” to the point that the alleged ring leader called his partners from Ithaca and Watertown jails to give them instructions, even though he was warned that his calls could be recorded. In these phone calls, Oliver allegedly directed his 19-year-old partners to transport prostitutes to various locations and even told one of his partners to give drugs to a prostitute to get her to work.
“This modern-day type of slavery will not be tolerated in New York State. With these arrests, a sex-trafficking ring has been dismantled, and victims, some as young as 15 years old, have been freed from a forced lifestyle,” Joseph A. D’Amico, New York State Police Superintendent, said in a statement Tuesday. “While human trafficking can be a difficult crime to detect, public awareness and the continued hard work of law enforcement and agencies like the New York Attorney General’s Office and the Organized Crime Task Force will continue to bring these groups to justice.”
Eric Oliver, a 30-year-old man from Syracuse and the alleged ring leader, has been charged with two counts of sex trafficking, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution, rape in the third degree and conspiracy in the fifth degree. If convicted of the five felonies and one misdemeanor charge, Oliver could spend decades in jail.
Tirra Pate, a 19-year-old woman from Syracuse, has been charged with sex trafficking, promoting prostitution in the third degree and conspiracy in the fifth degree. Jessica Moro, a 19-year-old woman from Cicero, has been charged with promoting prostitution in the second and third degrees and conspiracy in the fifth degree.