WASHINGTON U.S. authorities say they have broken up a prostitution ring and arrested five alleged gang members on charges they recruited teenage girls, including via Facebook, to sell sex and drugs in the Washington region.
The suspects are accused of recruiting at least 10 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 to work as prostitutes, including a 17-year-old girl who told authorities she was forced to use cocaine and have group sex with 14 men.
She also said that the alleged leader of the prostitution ring slashed her arm with a knife to force her to perform oral sex on him, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Virginia.
Another victim who tried to stop working as part of the ring said she was choked and threatened, the affidavit said.
Some of the prostitutes went door-to-door in apartment complexes soliciting customers. One victim who sought to quit the ring was told she would be given drugs to sell instead, according to the court papers.
Authorities said those arrested were part of the Underground Gangster Crips.
"These gang members are alleged to have lured many area high school girls in the vile world of prostitution, and used violence and threats to keep them working as indentured sex slaves," Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement on Thursday.
The girls who joined the group were recruited at subway or bus stops in Virginia suburbs outside Washington, as well as at a local high school and on social media sites including Facebook, according to the court papers.
The accused gang members also used Internet sites like Craigslist to advertise for customers.
Four of the five people arrested are charged with conspiring to transport a juvenile to engage in a commercial sex act. The fifth individual was charged for serving as a driver in the prostitution ring, according to newly unsealed court papers.
An attempt to reach a lawyer for the accused gang leader, Justin Strom, was not immediately successful. If convicted on the conspiracy charge, the four defendants could face a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.
(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Xavier Briand)