S. Ozone Park man guilty of sex trafficking

S. Ozone Park man guilty of sex trafficking
By Howard Koplowitz

A 25-year-old South Ozone Park man who was the first person in the state to be charged under the sex trafficking statute pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and other charges last week for prostituting three young women, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Woodley Gaston, 25, of 118-08 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park, was first charged in 2007 with advancing and profiting from the prostitution of a 16-year-old girl, Brown said.

The DA said Gaston was charged again in 2008 with forcing another 16-year-old girl into prostitution and a third time last year for prostituting an 18-year-old girl to repay a debt.

“This defendant has preyed on troubled young women — forcing them to perform numerous sexual acts for money and to turn over all of the cash proceeds to him,” Brown said in a statement. “The guilty plea in this case ensures that the defendant will serve a substantial prison sentence. It will also protect the victims in this case from having to testify against him and relive their nightmare in a public courtroom.”

Gaston pleaded guilty Jan. 18 to sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and rape before Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Kron, who indicated he would sentence Gaston to between three and nine years in prison Feb. 3, the DA said.

As part of Gaston’s guilty plea, he must register as a sex offender, Brown said.

In the 2010 case, Gaston forced the then-17-year-old victim into a vehicle by threatening to beat her up and then forced her into prostitution between June 1, 2007, and Sept. 3, 2007, and again between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2008, Brown said.

Gaston allegedly posted sexually explicit photos of the victim on Craigslist to attract customers and forced the girl to perform various sexual acts for money and to turn the cash over to him, Brown said.

Gaston also allegedly beat the girl when she tried to leave him and directed her to perform sex acts with his landlord as a means of rent payment for his Rockaway Boulevard home, the DA said.

Gaston befriended the second victim, a 16-year-old girl, by buying her clothes and paying for her to get her hair and nails done before forcing her to work as a prostitute between March 5, 2008, and March 23, 2008, at known prostitution locations on Sutphin Boulevard and on the South Conduit near John F. Kennedy International Airport, Brown said.

Gaston allegedly posted photos of that girl also on Craigslist, the DA said.

State legislation that strengthened penalties against human trafficking and providing assistance to victims was enacted June 6, 2007, and took effect Nov. 1, 2007, Brown said.

Among the legislation’s provisions was the creation of a new Class B felony — “sex trafficking” — for perpetrators who profit from prostitution by engaging in sex trafficking; requiring those convicted of sex trafficking to register as sex offenders with the state; providing social service assistance to victims, such as temporary housing, health and mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment; and ensuring that sex trafficking victims are eligible for services from the Crime Victims Board.

Gaston was the first man to be charged under the new felony, Brown said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.