ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A major prostitution ring that was targeting vulnerable teenage girls has been busted in St. Paul, resulting in the arrests of two brothers and their two uncles.
Otis Deno Washington, 29, and his brother Antonio Dion Washington-Davis, 27, are both charged with first-degree sex trafficking and conspiracy. The men’s uncles, 49-year-old Calvin Roy Washington and 56-year-old Robert James Washington are also charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. A fifth defendant, 25-year-old Elizabeth Ann Alexander, who is the mother of Antonio’s children is also charged with conspiracy.
St. Paul police say those charged in the case were keeping the young victims enslaved by threatening them with violence.
Police were tipped to the alleged ring in October 2012, after a teen’s grandmother contacted investigators with concern about the welfare of her 15-year-old granddaughter.
What they discovered was a very complex conspiracy that was enslaving a large number of teenaged girls and young women into the sex trade.
For nearly two years, a home on the 600 block of Hawthorne in St. Paul was the center of the alleged prostitution ring.
In announcing the charges, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said, “it involves the human trafficking of at least 10 known victims and probably more – the investigation is still ongoing.”
Police explained that the defendants were not strangers to investigators. At least one of them, Antonio Washington-Davis, had been convicted of engaging in prostitution back in 2008.
“The defendants in this case were not new to us,” St. Paul Police Sergeant John Bandemer said. “These defendants were known to us for many years, going back in time.”
The ring targeted what investigators described as mentally slow teenage girls. One of the victims is bipolar, and another has a cognitive disorder. Others were runaways and living in homeless shelters.
“Our runaway youth, the number is increasing every year,” Bandemer said. “In Minnesota, a runaway girl will be approached by a trafficker within the first 36 to 48 hours.”
According to the complaint, the girls were photographed for elicit ads that were then placed on adult websites such as Backpage.com.
They were forced to have sex with five or six customers a night, and at times up to 20. The elicit meetings were often arranged in private homes across the Twin Cities and in local motels.
On one occasion, the 15-year-old victim was driven to a motel in Ely, Minn., where she was sold to customers and told, “somewhere you can’t talk to any of your family and you won’t know where you are.”
The Washington brothers are said to have kept nearly all the money and at times forced the girls to “walk the streets” to attract customers.
Choi said it took about six months to finally bust the ring and make the arrests, and that he feels bad about the length of time it took. But Choi said that proves just how complex and involved the ring was.
To elude detection, the defendants used at least eight different e-mail addresses, along with 30 different phone numbers and some 100 prepaid credit cards to pay for their advertising.
Here is a list of those charged:
1.) Otis Deno Washington, 29, faces first-degree sex trafficking, two counts of second-degree sex trafficking and one count of second-degree conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
2.) Antonio Dion Washington-Davis, 27, who is Otis Washington’s brother, faces one count of first-degree sex trafficking, second-degree sex trafficking and second-degree conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
3.) Calvin Roy Washington, 49, who is Otis’ and Antonio’s uncle, faces one count of second-degree sex trafficking and second-degree conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
4.) Robert James Washington, 56, another uncle, faces second-degree conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
5.) Elizabeth Ann Alexander, 25, faces second-degree conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.