Suspects nabbed after sex trafficking and sexual assaults in Brooklyn

Shanice Lewis | 8/3/2017, 7:39 a.m.
Community leaders and antiviolence organizations are taking action after a string of sexual assault attacks and a sex-trafficking operation of ...
Police line/crime scene Wikipedia/Creative Common/Tony Webster

Community leaders and antiviolence organizations are taking action after a string of sexual assault attacks and a sex-trafficking operation of young women has left two Brooklyn neighborhoods on high alert.

Last month, charges were filed against a pair of East New York pimps who were allegedly involved in the sex trafficking of nearly a dozen underage girls from out of state.

According to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, Jonathan “Jayo” Harris, 25 and Tariq “Ricky” Washington, 23, both of East New York have been indicted on nearly 40-counts of sex trafficking, promoting prostitution, rape, assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

“These defendants allegedly preyed on vulnerable young women, luring them to New York City to work as prostitutes, and in several cases drugging and using physical violence against those who refused,” said Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “I intend to hold them fully accountable for these despicable acts.”

The charges stem from an investigation of the sex-trafficking operation ran between March 2015 and December 2016, in which nine young women were forced into prostitution, according to the district attorney’s office.

Many of the young women, mostly between the ages of 15 and 16, were found on Backpage.com, where the defendants texted and invited them to come to New York, even sending them bus tickets. They were lured from cities as far as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Cleveland, prosecutors say.

According to the investigation, Harris and Washington rented motel rooms around Brooklyn to which they would drive the young women to participate in sex work with men. The women were forced to use drugs and were beaten if they refused to work.

An 18-year-old from Philadelphia managed to escape and get help from the police after two months of being held captive by Harris and Washington. She came to Brooklyn with a 17-year- old friend who returned home after a few days. Prosecutors say she had been raped and beaten by Harris.

Harris and Washington are being held on $250,000 bail. They each face up to 25 years in prison and will have to register as sex offenders if convicted.

In the wake of the alarming attacks against women, an emergency meeting of the United Against Violence Task Force and a special self-defense training workshop was held by New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton, the Center for Anti-Violence Education and Repair the World NYC.

July 12, four women in Crown Heights were sexually assaulted within four hours by a suspect who police believed to be the same person. A suspect was arrested last week in connection to those crimes.

“Any one of these women attacked earlier this month could be your co-worker, your family member or your friend,” said Hamilton. “As neighbors, as allies and as advocates, we stand in solidarity with them.”

At the UAVTF meeting, residents were taught self-defense techniques, taught how to escape an attacker and discussed the importance of remaining aware of your surroundings and how to be self-defense prepared.

“Every member of our community is entitled to safety and to peace of mind,” said Hamilton. “That’s why we joined together to offer this self-defense training workshop. And it is why we continue in our United Against Violence Task Force efforts. We will not allow violence to win. We will not allow criminals to win. We will uplift survivors and stand united.”