Six men suspected of operating a multimillion-dollar prostitution enterprise in Long Island City were indicted last week following an unprecedented six-month investigation that targeted street walking in Queens Plaza, the Queens district attorney said.
Five of the suspects, including one from Jamaica, were arrested by police last Thursday in an early-morning sweep of the neighborhood, while the sixth remains at large, DA Richard Brown told a news conference later that day.
All are charged with multiple counts of promoting prostitution and face up to seven years in prison if convicted. Three also face additional charges of enterprise corruption, the maximum sentence for which is 25 years.
Charged with multiple counts of promoting prostitution were Gerard Baker, 26, of 160-01 109th Ave. in Jamaica; and Kenny Carter, 24, Donny Payne, 20, Ralston Reid, 20, and Anthony Brown, all of Brooklyn. Baker and Carter, as well as the suspect still being sought, also face the more serious charges of enterprise corruption.
The six men allegedly controlled all of the prostitution that operated in and around Long Island City, said Brown, who believes the arrests will virtually eliminate prostitution from the area for the time being.
The men allegedly netted $2.2 million each year by forcing women they controlled in a ruthless and often violent manner to earn $1,000 every night, Brown said.
Four other men had already been arrested earlier in the investigation, including two who forced a 12-year-old girl into prostitution and another who assaulted a girl with a hot iron when she refused to sell herself.
Twenty suspected prostitutes were also picked up in last Thursday mornings sweep, the DA said.
Operation Plaza Boys represented a drastic change in the Police Departments strategy for combating prostitution in Queens Plaza, where the crime has been pervasive for years.
On any given night, dozens of street walkers frequent an eight-square-block area at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge, aggressively blocking traffic while selling their wares and intruding upon the quality of life of those who live and work in the area, Brown said.
A surveillance tape played at the conference depicted half a dozen prostitutes congregated at the intersection of 42nd Avenue and Hunter Street, approaching a line of slow-moving cars and gesturing to drivers in apparent attempts to gain clients.
Where the police ordinarily arrest prostitutes and their patrons, the recent investigation focused on the pimps, the people who control the prostitution, Brown said.
The men were able to avoid arrest for so long because theyve managed to keep their hands clean of directly getting involved with their prostitutes, said Capt. Michael Bryan, the commanding officer of the 108th Precinct.
But this investigation consisted of meticulous tenacious surveillance, said Capt. Francis Darsillo, who supervised an undercover investigative team that documented the pimps and all their interactions with the prostitutes.
Each pimp allegedly ran a stable of between five and 10 women, who were forced to follow an intricate set of rules and faced fines or punishment for defying them.
The pimps controlled their stables as if they were chattels, Brown said.
Brown is targeting the men with an enterprise corruption statute that had previously been used to break up organized crime.
The DA said he plans to hit the suspects in the pocketbook through the forfeiture of the $2.2 million in proceeds in addition to seeking extensive jail time.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2001 Community News Group
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