8 charged in California sex trafficking ring

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(AP) – Eight people were charged Thursday for their roles in a sex trafficking ring where gang members recruited teenage girls from high schools in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and had them work as prostitutes in the Los Angeles area, authorities said.

Four suspected Rolling 60 Crips were charged with conspiracy and sex trafficking, while four women also face various charges. It wasn’t immediately known whether any of the defendants had retained an attorney.

Seven of those charged took part in running the sex trafficking ring that involved seven teenage girls, six of whom were under the age of 18. Federal prosecutors said Kimberly Alberti, 19, of Riverside recruited most of the victims from a high school she attended and made promises that the sex trade was lucrative.

“Alberti would prey on young, vulnerable females who sometimes had no support at home,” according to court documents.

The girls were then brought to Compton and other parts of South Los Angeles where they were taught how to be prostitutes and then began working on the street, authorities said. Paul Bell, 27, of Lynwood often threatened the girls with violence and may have kept them locked in an apartment, court documents show.

Bell has at least eight prior convictions over the past 10 years, including force with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and sex with a minor.

Gangs have increasingly moved toward sex trafficking as profitable ventures. In March, five suspected gang members were charged in Virginia with running a prostitution ring that targeted high school girls. Authorities said some of the girls participated voluntarily while others were beaten or plied with drugs.

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