Twenty-two suspected gang members and associates were indicted Thursday on sex-trafficking charges that include allegations of forcing underage girls from schools in eastern San Diego County into prostitution.
The defendants recruited about 100 girls and young women – ranging in age from 12 to the mid-20s – by promising a lavish lifestyle and plying them with alcohol and drugs, federal prosecutors said at a news conference in San Diego.
If those tactics did not work, they resorted to violence, prosecutors said.
The 19 men and three women were part of a gang called Tycoons that sent girls and young women to “customers” in California, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, and Nevada, according to the indictment. The Tycoons, composed of members of other street gangs, were based in Lemon Grove and Spring Valley.
The defendants were “stealing the souls of children,” said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy. The Tycoons are also accused of attempted murder, drug trafficking, burglary and robbery, according to the indictment.
“This investigation pulls back the curtain on a growing threat involving sexual exploitation occurring in plain sight,” said FBI special agent in charge Eric Birnbaum.
The 22 face charges of conspiracy to engage in racketeering, which can carry a sentence of life in prison.