Prostitution charges dropped

April 14, 2009|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,

The Baltimore state's attorney's office dropped prostitution charges Monday against two sisters believed to have been trafficked into the country from Mexico, prosecutors said, because city police failed to produce the evidence against them.

Assistant State's Attorney Joakim Tan said that investigators supplied him with charging documents, the results of criminal background checks on the women and the warrant authorizing the Sept. 25 search of a two-story Butchers Hill rowhouse in the 200 block of S. Collington Ave.

But when Tan asked for the evidence seized during the search - a ledger police had said showed that the suspects each had 19 customers on the day of their arrest along with money, business cards and 20 photographs - one of the detectives said there were "problems" locating it, Tan said.

The case against Reina Lopez, 36, and Virginia Martinez, 31, had already been postponed once, and state trial rules required Tan to have turned over the evidence against the sisters to their attorney months ago. The case against Carlos Silot, who is accused of being their pimp, is pending.

Nicole Monroe, a police spokeswoman, said that the detective's commander has "been notified" of the issue and that the matter is under investigation.

Lopez and Martinez's attorney, Tara LeCompte, said that her clients had been promised work, good pay and food in the United States. But after a week of working, LeCompte said, Silot never paid them.

"He kept on saying 'later, later, later,' " LeCompte said.

Police have alleged that Silot brought in two new women every Monday to work in a brothel advertised to Hispanic men in the Patterson Park area.

"Were they kidnapped and brought here? I don't think so," LeCompte said of the sisters. "But there was certainly coercion and false promises. They were desperate for money. ... And once they were here, I don't believe they thought they had any choice."

LeCompte said the women would not testify against Silot for fear of retribution.

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