RIVERSIDE – The leader of a gang-run prostitution ring that recruited girls as young as 15 years old in Riverside and surrounding cities is facing 30 years in prison after admitting he was guilty of sex trafficking and other charges.
Paul Edward Bell, 29, of Lynwood was the eighth and final defendant to plead guilty or be convicted in connection with the sex-for-money operation busted by local, state and federal law enforcement officials in July 2012.
Bell was slated to go to trial Monday, but instead pleaded guilty to two counts each of sex trafficking, conspiracy and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips has yet to certify Bell’s plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which calls for a 30-year term. She set a sentencing hearing for March 30.
Bell was indicted along with Kimberly Alberti, 20, of Riverside; Javiya Brooks, 21, of Lynwood; Kristy Harrell, 21, of Riverside; Gary Rogers, 25, of Moreno Valley; his brother Samuel Rogers, 23, of Moreno Valley; Christopher Weldon, 24, of Compton; and Su Yan, 31, of Rosemead.
All of the men, with the exception of Yan, are reputed members of the Rolling 60s Crips, based in Los Angeles.
”The defendants in this case lured minor victims from school with false promises of a glamorous lifestyle, only to sexually exploit and abuse them in furtherance of the gang, and for their own financial gain,” said Bill Lewis, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
”January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and (this) announcement should send a message to those with similar intentions of targeting minors that the FBI and our task force partners are committed to investigating allegations of sex trafficking and sending them to prison,” he said.
According to prosecutors, seven girls between 15 and 17 years old were recruited into a street-level operation centered on Long Beach Boulevard in Compton. In several instances, victims were approached at their schools and enticed into working as prostitutes with the lure of basic amenities, including hairdos, nail jobs and free meals, prosecutors said.
Alberti, who was enrolled at a Riverside high school, initiated contact with the victims — four of whom Bell admitted keeping under his personal control, court papers show.
”Bell admitted physically abusing one victim ‘for not performing as a prostitute and for acting up,”’ according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
All of the defendants pleaded guilty over the last six months. Alberti was sentenced to two years in federal prison, while Weldon was sentenced to six. Like Bell, the remaining defendants are awaiting sentencing. The investigation was conducted by the Inland Empire Child Exploitation- Prostitution Task Force, comprised of personnel from the FBI, Riverside Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies.