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Women from Maryland escape alleged prostitution ring

Federal authorities allege victims were part of human trafficking ring

10 arrested and house raided in Northeast Baltimore

November 05, 2011|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

The group soon left for New Orleans, where she said the women danced at a club near Bourbon Street. They worked in shifts and on alternate days; those who weren't dancing stayed in the room to take care of the children, clean and spend time with the men.

It was here that the woman said she got her first chance to sing. It wasn't in a concert hall, or in a recording studio. She said the closest she got to performing was on a street corner.

At the club one night, the woman said she took a rare moment alone to try to get away. With other women in a private lap dance area, she raced out the front door, in high-heels "and my stripper clothes," and borrowed a cellphone from a stranger to call her ex-boyfriend in Maryland.

It was 3 in the morning.

"I was too scared to call the police," she said. She returned to the club.

On that same trip, the woman said she was twice forced to have sex with some men in a room down the hall from theirs, for $40 each time. She also said she had to convince other, new women who'd joined the group, to also engage in prostitution.

After a night that netted more money than usual, the woman said, the group packed up and drove to Texas. The leaders had a house there, the FBI said in court documents, but the woman said they first stayed in a Motel 6. She said she constantly had to tell her "boyfriend" that she loved him, to lure him into a false sense of complacency. That might win her more freedom, and a chance to get away, she thought.

There was a new woman there, and during a moment alone, they started talking.

"Do you want to leave?" the new woman asked.

"Every day since I got here," the woman answered.

They told the men they needed to get ice, and even invited one of the ringleaders along to avoid raising suspicion. The man declined, and the two went out alone. They stood at the ice machine, counted to three, and ran to a motel across the street.

There, the clerk hid them in a back office as one of the men came searching. Police took them to a bus station and in June this year they made a four-day Greyhound journey back to Maryland, using money wired by the other woman's parents. The had no identification and no change of clothes. The other woman's father called the FBI.

The next day, the woman got an email from the man she said had promised her a concert tour. It called her a "throw away hoe" and added, "You will never make it in music u to stupid."

Back in Baltimore, the woman interviewed by The Sun said she stayed briefly with the friend with whom she had escaped, and then with other friends in Prince George's County. But she needed money, and the surest money was back on The Block.

On the night of Sept. 1, at a club identified by police as Chez Joey, the woman said she noticed another young dancer talking with people associated with "424 Records," who had returned to Maryland, to a house they rented off Harford Road.

The dancer had been warned not to talk to the woman because she had left the group. But the dancer wanted to escape, and thought the woman could help her. The dancer got a chance to talk to the woman privately and told her of her plans.

But there was a problem. Her child was back at the house in Northeast Baltimore. The woman, who knew the doorman and manager, said she convinced them to call the suspects and get them to either return the child or face the police.

The dancer had her child back by 3 a.m. The two women hid in the club, around the corner from City Hall and police headquarters, and then made it to the house of the woman who had escaped from El Paso. They called TurnAround and the FBI, who by then were investigating the group.

Federal agents raided the house on Harford Road on Oct. 12.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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