By SÍLE MOLONEY
Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced on Dec. 23 that nine alleged Bloods gang members have been indicted on various charges of sex trafficking of a child, sex trafficking and promoting prostitution, as well as additional charges for running a sex trafficking ring out of multiple Bronx motels and other hotels around the city.
The defendants are Angel Cano, 22, Bronx, Luis Cano aka Lou, 23, Bronx, Brandon Diaz aka Billz, 27, Bronx, Elvis Dominguez aka LV, 24, Bronx, Ashley Garcia, 19, Bronx, Andrew Garcia aka Drew, 23, Bronx, Shaquille Hernandez aka Budda, 22, Bronx, Eliana Rivadeniera aka Faith, 23, Bronx and Abigail Rodriguez, 31, Bronx.
In the context of the announcement, Clark said, “These defendants, who are allegedly part of the Hunts Point Family Bloods subset, ran a sex trafficking ring from Bronx motels and manipulated their victims through drugs and violence. The defendants used social media to get to the victims, preying on teens and young women.” She added, “My human trafficking unit is helping these victims through the trauma and will continue to dismantle these terrible operations that demean and damage victims.”
Meanwhile, Shea said, “These arrests reflect the NYPD’s ongoing commitment to shift the focus of our enforcement operations to target human trafficking and to connect human trafficking victims with the services they need to survive.” He commended both the detectives and those at the office of Bronx District Attorney for their sustained work in bringing forward what he described as an important case.
Collectively, the indictment includes two counts of sex trafficking of a child, eight counts of sex trafficking, second-degree promoting of prostitution, three counts of third-degree promoting of prostitution, fourth-degree promoting of prostitution, attempted sex trafficking of a child, second and third-degree attempted promoting of prostitution, seven counts of fourth-degree conspiracy, and fifth-degree conspiracy.
Defendants Ashley Garcia, Rivadeniera and Rodriguez were arraigned today before Bronx Supreme Court Justice Michael Gross. They were granted supervised release and are due back in court on March 24, 2021. Five defendants are currently in custody and will soon be arraigned, while one defendant is yet to be apprehended. If convicted of the top charge, several defendants face a maximum determinate sentence of 25 years in prison.
According to the investigation, between May 6, 2020 and Nov. 19, 2020, the defendants allegedly operated a sex trafficking ring from various Bronx motels, including the 7 Day Inn, located at 2338 Bruckner Boulevard in Unionport, Best Western Plus, 926 Sedgwick in Highbridge, Pelham Garden Motel, 1990 East Gun Hill Road in Pelham Gardens and the Holiday Motel on the New England Thruway in Eastchester. They also allegedly operated in hotels around the city, and forced their victims to meet with Johns at other private locations.
According to the investigation, the defendants allegedly used social media platforms to reach out to their victims and lure them with money. They took photos of the victims and posted them as ads on several prostitution-related websites, and also allegedly communicated with the Johns, telling the victims where to meet the Johns, and what sexual acts to perform on them. Some victims were regularly beaten, punched, slapped and thrown to the ground. The defendants also plied victims with drugs, including Xanax and Percocet, to control them.
The case is being prosecuted by assistant district attorney, Johnathan Vega, of the human trafficking unit, under the supervision of Stephen Knoepfler, chief of the unit, and under the overall supervision of Joseph Muroff, chief of the special victims division. Clark thanked a long list of colleagues and collaborators for their efforts in bringing the case forward.
In an interview with News 12 in January, Clark said, “Two types of things that we see the most for victims of sex trafficking and human trafficking are people who are in a domestic violence relationship where there is a prostitution component, and we also see runaways.”
Norwood News previously reported on the work of Monique Riley and “Freedom Youth NYC,” and their efforts to educate Bronx youth (and adults) to prevent the grooming of children, teens and other vulnerable groups into sex trafficking which, according to human trafficking organizations, can start in the home with children and teens being groomed by older family members, or partners being pimped by their spouses.
Activists say, in some cases, after years of abuse, which may include attempts to run away, victims can be easily manipulated by preying third party pimps who the victims come to regard as saviors or protectors, and often as their sexual partners. Some survivors of sex trafficking and prostitution say drugs are a way of numbing the reality of their day-to-day existence, which can lead to addiction, further complicating attempts to break free from the cycle.
According to the Guardian Group, an advocacy group which aims to dismantle the sex trafficking industry, sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states and more than 80 percent of victims are U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, according to the Public Intelligence site, the Bloods gang was created in the early 1970s in Los Angeles to compete with a rival gang called the “Avenue Boys” which eventually morphed into the Crips. In July 1993, the Bloods surfaced in section C-73 at the New York City Department of Correction facility on Rikers Island, to compete with gangs such as the Latin Kings and the Netas who were more organized and better equipped to dominate the inmate infrastructure.
Public Intelligence wrote that the Bloods’ agility in slashing attacks exemplifies their expertise in the use of razors. On New York City streets, they carry razor blades in their pockets, while in jails they have mastered the technique of carrying razors in their anuses and mouths. The Bloods would later adopt a new blade of choice – the scalpel.
Anyone who may have been victimized or may have information about other victims of alleged sex trafficking by these defendants or anyone else, is encouraged to call the NYPD Human Trafficking Hotline at 646-610-7272.