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California

Eight members of alleged sex-trafficking ring indicted

It was a promise that spoke to high school girls of humble means and less-than-stable homes — quick money to get their hair and nails done, buy a house, even get their kids back from foster care.

It was, a girl allegedly told her schoolmates, simply a matter of “using what you got to get what you want.”

That was how 19-year-old Kimberly Alberti lured underage girls at her school to work for her pimp, prosecutors allege, bringing them into the control of a sex-trafficking ring in which they were beaten, raped and locked up while being forced into prostitution.

Authorities on Thursday announced the indictment of eight members of the ring, who allegedly recruited underage girls from Inland Empire schools, on federal sex-trafficking charges.

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Four alleged pimps charged in the case were all members of the Rolling 60s Crips gang, according to prosecutors. Also indicted were three women accused of working as “lead prostitutes” for the men, recruiting, grooming, managing and even assaulting other women at their pimps’ behest, authorities said.

Six suspects were arrested Thursday morning, and two were already in state custody, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

“The sex trafficking of women and juveniles is a heinous and disturbing crime,” U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. said in a statement. “The charges in this case send a powerful message to any and all persons — including street gang members — who would engage in such cruel and heartless conduct.”

Over the course of the investigation, which began in early 2011, investigators heard two of the suspected pimps in jail calls discuss using a prostitute as young as 15, according to court papers.

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Alberti, who was the “lead prostitute” for 22-year-old Samuel Rogers of Moreno Valley, was the one who recruited most of the victims, prosecutors allege. She befriended potential prostitutes and enticed them by painting a glamorous picture of working the streets, according to investigators.

The girls were then taken from Riverside County or San Bernardino County to areas along Long Beach Boulevard in Compton and Lynwood, a stretch known for prostitution, and kept in motels or pimps’ apartments. They were threatened and beaten into complying, and in one instance, a pimp and his lead prostitute assaulted a victim for not making enough money, prosecutors said.

In addition to Rogers and Alberti, authorities have charged Paul Edward Bell, 27, of Lynwood; Gary Rogers, 23, of Moreno Valley; Christopher Weldon, 22, of Compton; Javiya Brooks, 19, of Lynwood; Kristy Harrell, 20, of Riverside; and Su Yan, 30, of Rosemead. Yan, authorities said, is not a prostitute but is suspected of acting as Bell’s associate and helping him manage proceeds.

All defendants except Yan face sex trafficking-related counts that each carry a minimum 10-year prison sentence, according to prosecutors.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com


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