SAN DIEGO (CBS/AP) — Federal prosecutors in San Diego say 24 people are charged with crimes attributed to a street gang that allegedly forced women and girls to work as prostitutes.
Seventeen people were arrested Wednesday in California, Arizona and New Jersey under an indictment that targets a gang based in San Diego’s North Park area.
The defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy.
Prosecutors say they belong to a predominantly black gang called “BMS,” which traces its origins to the early 1990s.
Prosecutors say the gang operated a prostitution ring spanning 46 cities in 23 states.
The gang allegedly recruited women and girls by promising luxurious lifestyles, branded them with tattoos and bar codes and traded them among themselves.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy called the operation nothing more than modern day slavery.
“The defendants in this case sold, traded and gifted girls and women among each other. They branded these girls and women like property – and that branding included tattooing these girls and women with things like their own names, their gang monikers, their gang names and even bar codes,” she said.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, all of the 60 female sex trafficking victims, including 11 minors, were offered resources to help them start a new life.
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