Some of the girls were recruited on Facebook and Instagram.
The seven girls and women ranged in age from 16 to 36. Their pimps charged $100 for a half-hour of sex, according to federal court records.
The pimps provided condoms, lubricants, rooms and cellphones, and used threats, violence, sexual assault and intimidation to control the victims, court records state. In one incident, a pimp punched a girl and forced her to remove her clothing while threatening to shoot another girl, federal agents said.
And Room 222 at a Super 8 motel in Fort Worth was a favorite spot in what federal agents called a statewide sex-trafficking operation that included young teens.
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But federal officials said Tuesday that the operation has been shut down with the arrest of eight men, three of them brothers.
Each suspect faces a federal charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. If convicted, they face a maximum of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The suspects, who remained in custody Tuesday, made a court appearance last week in Fort Worth.
Federal officials identified the suspects as Demarcus “Zigg” Davis, 25; Kentrell “Zeal” Davis, 24; Cederrick “Ced or Spazz” Clarkson, 25; Pierre “P or Pedro” Lagrone, 33; Robert “King Rose” Roseberry, 29; Herman “Pooh” Sanders, 29; Reginald “Green Light” Smith, 28; and Terroderick “Silk” Watts, 27.
A federal criminal complaint noted that at least five juvenile females were recruited for the operation as well as two adult women.
The operation existed from February 2016 until this month, and the men are accused of running it in Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Grand Prairie, Tyler, Killeen and Arlington, according to court documents.
Local and federal authorities obtained surveillance videos from hotels, capturing the victims and suspects in the operation.
The 24-page federal criminal complaint gave this brief account of the investigation:
After recruiting the victims, the suspects advertised or sold several of them for commercial sex.
The men are accused of taking photographs of victims either nude or in their underwear and posting them on Backpage.com, a commercial website frequently used to advertise commercial sex. The ads were posted using an email address of one of the juveniles.
The suspects drove the victims to hotels to meet their johns and waited in parking lots. Some girls would hand over their money to another girl.
“Through my training and experience, I know that pimps will frequently use a ‘bottom girl’ or ‘bottom bitch’ to collect money earned through commercial sex acts,” Special Agent John Kochan said in the federal complaint. Kochan is with the Department of Homeland Security.
In March, Fort Worth vice officers located one of the juvenile girls at a hotel after answering a Backpage.com ad. The officers were working on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Two other juvenile girls were found hiding in a hotel closet.
But the sex-trafficking operation continued as authorities worked to identify suspects.
In May, Kochan interviewed an employee at a Super 8 in Fort Worth who told him she made a juvenile girl and one of the suspects leave a room because they were causing other patrons to complain about the number of people going in and out of the room.
Suspects continued recruiting girls and women. Federal agents obtained a text message from Kentrell Davis and a 16-year-old girl from Shreveport wanting her to engage in commercial sex in North Texas.
A 36-year-old woman told authorities that Cederrick Clarkson would frequently beat her if she made him angry or did not follow his directions, according to the federal criminal complaint.
At one point, the woman sent a text message to Clarkson saying, “Thank u fir the food n for not beating my ass just please don’t give up on me. I’m willin to do wat ever u say daddy i promise.”
The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and police from Fort Worth, Arlington and Tyler investigated the operation.