NEW YORK (TCD) -- A 29-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were indicted for allegedly sex trafficking multiple women in their mid-20s across at least six states.
According to a news release from the New York County District Attorney’s Office, between February 2020 and February 2021, intimate couple and parents Jonathan Ruiz and Charline Santiago allegedly conspired to violently traffic the female victims. Ruiz reportedly recruited the women by posting online advertisements, and he drove them to work at hotels and across different locations such as New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
The D.A.’s Office said Santiago "often waited outside of hotels, accepting CashApp payments and cash." Additionally, Ruiz reportedly moved some of the female victims to a house in Connecticut.
According to the D.A.’s Office, Ruiz allegedly created OnlyFans accounts for the female victims without their knowledge or consent and forced them to take nude photos and media, as well as speak with clients.
If the female victims did not want to work, stashed money away, tried to flee, or fell asleep, Ruiz allegedly beat them. On at least one occasion at the direction of Santiago, one of the beatings resulted in black eyes and extensive bruising along with lacerations with scars, the D.A.’s Office said.
At one point, Ruiz reportedly showed the women the firearm he owned.
In addition to the sex trafficking allegations, the D.A.’s Office said Ruiz and Santiago withheld the women’s identification cards, birth certificates, and Social Security cards so they could not flee. Recovered emails and bank records reportedly revealed that Ruiz used the confiscated identification cards to apply for and collect federal benefits that were intended for the women.
In order to keep the women awake, Ruiz reportedly ordered the women to take cocaine, and if the women didn’t earn a specific amount, he would beat them or force them to not eat.
According to the D.A.’s Office, Ruiz and Santiago concealed evidence by creating an LLC in Connecticut and listing themselves as executive officers. The two reportedly issued "fraudulent pay stubs [and] maintained extensive transaction records between themselves and prostitution clients."
On June 29, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced that Ruiz and Santiago had been indicted on charges of conspiracy, sex trafficking, and promoting prostitution. Ruiz was also charged with labor trafficking.
In a statement, Bragg said, "These horrific allegations detail an abhorrent sex trafficking scheme that preyed on vulnerable people so the ringleaders could turn a profit. The Internet gives traffickers new ways to exploit people through economic, emotional, physical, and psychological coercion."
Bragg added, "We will continue to hold accountable those who engaged in this type of criminal activity, while also continuing our work to ensure that survivors have the services and support they need to recover and move beyond the trauma they have faced."