A Brooklyn woman and a Pennsylvania man have been indicted on charges that they allegedly forced a 21-year-old woman from Massachusetts to prostitute herself out of a Flushing hotel for their profit, prosecutors announced.
Elizabeth O’Sullivan, 29, of Brooklyn and Lee Vargas, 32, of Stroudsburg, PA were arraigned on Friday, March 3, on a 22-count indictment that included charges of kidnapping, sex trafficking and promoting prostitution, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
“The defendants are accused of holding the victim against her will, forcing her to engage in prostitution turning over all the proceeds she earned to them,” Brown said. “If convicted, the defendants face a lengthy prison term for sex trafficking — a vile and very violent, degrading crime that will not be tolerated.”
According to the indictment, O’Sullivan and Vargas allegedly traveled to Massachusetts in October 2016 to pick up the 21-year-old victim; they brought her to Queens initially to work for them as a dancer/stripper.
Shortly after arriving in the borough, however, the plan changed, prosecutors said. The pair allegedly forced the victim to have sex with numerous men on a daily basis in exchange for money. She then had to turn over all the money she received to O’Sullivan and Vargas.
At one point the victim managed to reach out to her family, who notified police, the charges continued. On Jan. 7, 2017, an undercover rescue operation was initiated, where an officer allegedly responded to an advertisement posted on Backpage.com — a website designed to set up meetings with prostitutes — and was directed to a hotel on Main Street in Flushing. Later that night the victim allegedly met with the undercover officer at the hotel and offered and agreed to have sexual intercourse with him in exchange for $200.
Police returned to the hotel the following morning and found O’Sullivan and Vargas sitting inside a vehicle in front of the hotel with marijuana burning in the ashtray. The two defendants were arrested, at which time a vacuum-sealed bag of marijuana was allegedly recovered from O’Sullivan’s pants.
Bail has been set at $600,000 bond/$300,000 cash for Vargas, and $250,000 bond/$125,000 cash for O’Sullivan.
The next court date for the defendants, who each face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted, is scheduled for May 8.