Oct. 24, 2018 By Tara Law
A husband and wife duo have been convicted on sex trafficking charges for forcing a 21-year-old woman to prostitute herself at a Flushing hotel.
Elizabeth O’Sullivan, a 31-year-old from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, and Lee Vargas, a 34-year-old from Pennsylvania, were found guilty today of three counts of sex trafficking and other charges. Both face up to 25 years in prison, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
The couple, according to court documents, recruited the young woman from a location in Massachusetts. The victim believed she had been hired to work as an erotic dancer and a stripper.
Instead, the couple forced her to have sex with different men for cash and took her earnings. The prostitution took place at the Flushing Hotel at 36-38 Main St., the District Attorney’s office said.
The couple advertised her as a prostitute on Backpage.com, a now-defunct site that was notorious for hosting prostitution ads.
After some time, the victim went to the duo crying and told them she could not work for them any more. Instead of allowing her to leave, the couple used violence and intimidation to make her stay put.
Vargas demanded that she start calling him “Daddy.” When she overslept or missed dates with clients, Vargas slapped her repeatedly, choked her and knocked her to the floor, according to court documents.
The woman repeatedly tried to leave the hotel, but O’Sullivan would intercept her at the door. She physically attacked the victim and forced her to go back to her room, the District Attorney’s office said.
Vargas also urinated on the young woman in order to show her that she belonged to him.
The victim, however, managed to contact her family, who notified the police. Law enforcement officers launched an undercover rescue operation on Jan. 7, 2017.
One of the investigators responded to one of the prostitution ads and was invited to the Flushing Hotel.
The investigator met up with the victim and agreed to pay her $200 in exchange for sex.
Officers came back to the hotel at 4 a.m. the next day and approached the couple, who were sitting in a vehicle outside the hotel smoking.
District Attorney Brown said that a long sentence for the defendants is “more than warranted.”
“The victim in this case— a young woman forced into prostitution— endured both emotional and physical trauma at the hands of these two defendants,” Brown said.