By ANGELA K. BROWN
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Several teenage gang members have been arrested on suspicion of forcing girls as young as 12 into a prostitution ring, police said Tuesday.
After befriending the girls and getting them high, Varrio Central gang members took them to some regular customers and then sought other men by trolling apartment complexes, offering the girls’ services for $50, Fort Worth police Lt. Ken Dean said.
The gang apparently targeted runaways and other girls with unstable homes, and if the girls refused to have sex for money the members beat and sexually assaulted them and threatened their families, Dean said.
“The age of the victims and suspects is the surprising part of it,” Dean said. “To have such young individuals in a somewhat organized business, a forced prostitution ring, is somewhat alarming and such a horrendous crime against the 12- to 16-year-old girls.”
Detectives found five victims, ages 12 to 16, but believe there may be more. Those girls are back with relatives or in other safe places, he said, declining to elaborate.
A 15-year-old girl who may be a gang member helped the group by going to the victims’ houses to pick them up under the pretense of going shopping or to a movie, which fooled the parents, said Lt. Dan Draper.
Four alleged gang members were arrested Jan. 3 after they took a 14- year-old to a convenience store to have sex with the owner, a regular customer of the prostitution ring, police said.
Diego Rodriguez, 19, and Martin Reyes, 17, were charged with counts including engaging in organized criminal activity, aggravated kidnapping and trafficking of a person. Rodriguez, held on $170,000 bond, did not have an attorney, and a lawyer for Reyes, held on $150,000 bond, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
The cases of two boys, ages 15 and 16, and the 15-year-old girl accused of helping the gang are being handled in the juvenile system. Police expect more arrests as the investigation continues, Dean said.
The convenience store owner, Chang Hyeong Lee, 56, was charged with aggravated kidnapping, engaging in organized criminal activity and prostitution. He remained jailed Tuesday with bail set at $300,000. His attorney could not immediately be reached.
Police discovered the prostitution ring after a woman was caught in August in a neighborhood allegedly offering men sex for $50 with a 14- year-old girl. Police have declined to reveal the relationship between Debra Flores Castillo, 33, who was charged with compelling prostitution, and the teen gang members.
She was released on a $20,000 bond. Her attorney, Mark Scott, declined to comment.
Jorge Martinez, accused of paying for sex with the teen in August, remained jailed on $10,000 bond Tuesday on a sexual assault of a child charge. His attorney did not immediately return a call.
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