MIAMI – A preacher faced a judge Wednesday on charges of trafficking several teens into prostitution, CBS Miami reported.
Ron Cooper, 52, was in bond court Wednesday morning with his attorney by his side.
Cooper, known as “Romeo,” reportedly lured male teens, ages 16 through 18, by saying he could get them modeling work and then arranged for them to meet a photographer.
It turns out the photographer was actually someone who paid to have sex with them, CBS Miami reported.
Cooper allegedly posted photos of the teens on websites like Craigslist and Backpage.com to find more clients.
In addition to forcing the teens to have sex with men in hotels, Cooper also prostituted them at a Miami adult book store, according to his arrest report. The manager at the adult bookstore declined to comment.
The victims were reportedly threatened and given drugs before sex.
“The boys went through with the sex act because they were afraid of the defendant. The defendant has in the past physically grabbed them and yelled at them in their faces. He also has threatened to go to their families and basically extort them and blackmail them stating that he was going to show them the photographs he had taken and the advertisements for sex he himself had posted,” said a prosecutor in court on Wednesday.
The four victims said they charged $40 to $100. The teens said after their encounters Cooper demanded half, sometimes more, of what they had been paid.
All of the teens said they were scared of him because he threatened to kill them if they didn’t give him the money.
A detective testified that evidence including computers, a cellphone and drugs were taken from Cooper’s Miami home.
An assistant public defender said Cooper had been in the community for about three years, had no prior arrests and worked at Walmart as well as being a youth pastor.
On Wednesday, the judge called Cooper a danger to the community and ordered him to be held without bond.