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Arrests could signal return of Queensboro prostitution

The arrests were made as community leaders worried that...

By Alex Ginsberg

Two Brooklyn men were arrested earlier this month and charged with employing girls as young as 16 as prostitutes near Queens Plaza in Long Island City, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

The arrests were made as community leaders worried that the illicit sex trade is creeping back into the industrial neighborhood after several years of comparative quiet.

The two men, Richard Edwards, 19, and Robert Kearse, 33, told prostitutes to have sex with male customers between June 28 and July 4 in the area just south of the Queensboro Bridge, according to a criminal complaint filed by the district attorney’s office.

Edwards directed one 16-year-old prostitute, whose name was withheld by the DA’s office, toward the corner of 42nd Road and 27th Street, where she proceeded to wave and call out to lone male drivers, the criminal complaint alleges.

The girl later told detectives that she was a prostitute and that Edwards was her pimp as well as her fiancé and the father of her unborn child, according to the complaint. The document further alleges that Edwards was holding plastic bags containing a black and white tube top, a black mini skirt and a Trojan condom.

Edwards did not admit being a pimp, but he told police that the girl he was with was a prostitute who was “doing her thing” while he was “watching her back,” according to the complaint.

Edwards was arraigned July 3, the district attorney’s office said.

Kearse, the second defendant, was pointed out to detectives by an 18-year-old prostitute who was questioned at Queens Plaza South and 21st Street, the district attorney’s office said.

That prostitute allegedly told police that Kearse instructed her to charge between $50 and $100 for different acts and that she had turned over to him the roughly $400 she had collected from customers.

A mobile phone recovered from the defendant displayed the words “Big Pimpin” — a popular song featuring the rap artist Jay-Z — on its front display, the criminal complaint alleges.

Kearse was arraigned July 4.

Both defendants were charged with promotion of prostitution, with additional charges of conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child filed against Edwards, the DA said. They face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The arrests were part of an ongoing effort by the 108th Precinct and the Queens Juvenile Special Projects Squad to clean up an area long plagued by prostitution, the district attorney’s office said.

“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” said Queens DA Richard Brown. “Its purveyors are jackals who exploit vulnerable young women without hope and take them into the streets where they degrade them by using them as sex-for-cash robots.”

The Queens Plaza area — due to its convenient access to major thoroughfares and the relative anonymity of its industrial blocks — has long been a notorious prostitution site. But Community Board 2 Vice Chairman Joe Conley said a police crackdown two years ago had gone a long way toward cleaning it up.

“They were able to come through the area and do a great job of moving prostitution out,” he said. “But lately ... we’re seeing prostitution returning.”

Community Board 2 covers Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside.

Conley said the 108th Precinct had done an excellent job reducing overall crime, but prostitution — which is often not reported as a crime — was an exception. He blamed low staffing levels in the precinct.

“We don’t get our fair share of cops,” Conley said. “Prostitution seems to fall down the list until it gets to this point.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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