(CBS/AP) McLEAN, Va. - Five alleged members of a street gang based in Virginia have been charged with running a prostitution ring that recruited high school girls who were threatened if they refused to participate.
The five, including accused leader Justin Strom, were charged in papers unsealed Thursday. According to an FBI affidavit, the defendants are members of a Fairfax County-based offshoot of the Crips street gang known as the Underground Gangster Crips.
Court documents state that the gang members recruited attractive teenage girls to participate either through Facebook or by approaching them on the street or at school. Several of the girls were allegedly either beaten or cut with a knife by Strom when they tried to quit or expressed reluctance about participating.
Since the investigation began in November, authorities identified at least 10 high school girls between the ages of 16 and 18 as potential victims. Some participated voluntarily; others were threatened or plied with illegal drugs, and still others were beaten after they tried to quit.
Many of the girls were required to have sex with Strom and other gang members as part of a tryout or initiation, according to court documents.
Girls were paid $20 to $100 to engage in sex acts, and were supposed to be allowed to keep half of the money, according to the affidavit.
The others charged are Michael Tavon Jefferies, 21, of Woodbridge; Donyel Dove, 27, of Alexandria; Henock Ghile, 23, of Springfield; and Christopher Sylvia, 22, of Springfield.
U.S. Attorney for the eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride, who's office is prosecuting the case, said that gangs are increasingly moving toward crimes like sex trafficking as moneymaking ventures.
"It's something that they think they can get away with," said MacBride, whose office has made human trafficking cases a priority.