WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Drugs gangs increasingly are turned to the child sex trade in the Washington area, finding that prostituting teenagers is far more profitable than dealing in drugs or weapons, according to U.S. prosecutors quoted in the Washington Post on Monday.
“The profit margin, the income stream that comes from selling the bodies of children … is enormous,” then-U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride, who left his post in September, told the newspaper.
His office in the Eastern District of Virginia, which covers part of the Washington metropolitan area, has prosecuted 27 people for gang-related trafficking cases since 2011
This month a member of the transnational criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha, which prosecutors say pioneered juvenile sex trafficking as gang business because they found that selling a girl many times earns more money than drugs, was charged in Alexandria, Va., with running an underground prostitution ring involving four female runaways. The gang, also known as MS-13, began in Los Angeles and has spread across the United States to Canada, Mexico and Central America.
In June, a leader of another gang, the Cold-Blooded Cartel, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for child prostitution in the same court and charges are pending against two others. Last year, a man linked to another gang, the Underground Gangster Crips, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for running what prosecutors said was one of the largest underage prostitution rings in the Washington area, the article said.
“This is an emerging trend, and the gangs we think have made a horribly wrong business calculation that they can make a lot of money and get away with it,” the Post quoted MacBride as saying.
Prosecutors say the Cold-blooded Cartel plied girls with marijuana and ecstasy, and used a combination of violence and affection to gain control of them. It advertised their services on the Internet and women and high school girls from a seven-state area met clients in hotel rooms in the Washington region.