7 in­dicted in sex tra∞ ck­ing

A grand jury brings 59 counts against those ac­cused of forc­ing kids into pros­ti­tu­tion.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul

A Colorado grand jury has handed down a 59- count in­dict­ment against seven peo­ple ac­cused in an ex­pan­sive child sex- traf­fick­ing ring that al­legedly op­er­ated in the Den­ver area and other states.

Au­thor­i­ties say the group re­cruited three girls and at least one woman and in­duced or forced them into pros­ti­tu­tion, making the chil­dren avail­able for sex acts in Den­ver- area ho­tel rooms.

Ring mem­bers kept money made by pros­ti­tut­ing their vic­tims, the in­dict­ment says, and at times the girls were beaten and sex­u­ally as­saulted.

Six of those in­dicted have been ar­rested, and the case is be­ing pros­e­cuted in Ara­pa­hoe County be­cause of­fi­cials say most of the ring’s crimes were com­mit­ted there. One man re­mains at large, but au­thor­i­ties said his ar­rest is pend­ing.

Mem­bers of the group face charges they vi­o­lated Colorado’s or­ga­nized crime act, were pimps and traf­ficked chil­dren and an adult. They also are ac­cused of as­sault, kid­nap­ping and keep­ing a place of child pros­ti­tu­tion.

The in­dict­ment was filed Nov. 6 by state pros­e­cu­tors and un­sealed last­week. A spokes­woman for the FBI’s Den­ver of­fice says its Rocky Moun­tain In­no­cence Lost Task Force — com­posed of fed­eral,

state and lo­cal of­fi­cers— in­ves­ti­gated the ring.

Au­thor­i­ties de­clined to say what other states the ring is ac­cused of op­er­at­ing in, al­though one woman charged is from a town near Min­neapo­lis. The Ara­pa­hoe County Sher­iff’sOf­fice says she and an­other per­son­were ex­tra­dited from Min­nesota.

The vic­tims’ ages were not in­cluded in the in­dict­ment.

“It stands out,” said Amanda Fin­ger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Den­ver- based Lab­o­ra­tory to Com­bat­Hu­manTraf­fick­ing. “It’s a really im­pres­sive in­dict­ment from the state. In par­tic­u­lar, it stands out ( among) other re­cent cases be­cause of the large num­ber of peo­ple who have been in­dicted.”

Fin­ger said the fil­ing is a re­minder of how­much ju­ris­dic­tional co­op­er­a­tion it can take for law en­force­ment to re­spond to sex traf­fick­ing.

The al­leged ring­leader, 29- yearold Brock Franklin, was taken into cus­tody on New Year’s Eve, court records show. He faces 48 felony charges, court records show.

“Franklin rou­tinely gave the vic­tims con­trolled sub­stances and used violence and drugs to con­trol ( them) and co­erce them into en­gag­ing in com­mer­cial sex acts for his fi­nan­cial gain,” the in­dict­ment says.

Ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, Franklin used Face­book to re­cruit his vic­tims then met them at ho­tels and night­clubs.

The girls and woman were given rules to fol­low, au­thor­i­ties say, in­clud­ing that they meet daily earn­ing quo­tas.

Michelle Payne, a 35- year- old fromAnoka, Minn., who al­legedly was Franklin’s main ac­com­plice, would rent ho­tel rooms for the vic­tims to work out of, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said. She also is ac­cused of in­struct­ing them on how to work in the sex trade.

WhenFranklin­wasn’t avail­able, au­thor­i­ties said, Paynewould take the money the girls would earn from their sex work.

One mem­ber of the ring, au­thor­i­ties say, al­lowed his home in Den­ver’s Mont­bello neigh­bor­hood to be a hub for child pros­ti­tu­tion.

The in­dict­ment says the al­leged crimes spanned from late 2014 through much of last year.

Franklin is be­ing held at the Ara­pa­hoe County jail with­out bail. Payne, who court records showwas ar­rested last week on 31 felony counts in the case, is be­ing held there on $ 50,000 bail.

Franklin is next due in court Jan. 11 for a hear­ing on bail.

Court records show Payne was ar­rested in a sep­a­rate case by Evans po­lice in July on sus­pi­cion of pros­ti­tu­tion charges.

State and Ara­pa­hoe County pros­e­cu­tors de­clined to com­ment be­cause the case is open.

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