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Couple Sentenced to Up to 25 Years in Prison for Running Flushing-based Sex Trafficking Operation

Flushing Hotel (Photo: Google)

Feb. 11, 2019 By Jon Cronin

A husband and wife team have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for running a prostitution ring out of a Flushing hotel between October 2016 and January 2017, according to the Queens DA.

The duo, Elizabeth O’Sullivan, 31, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and Lee Vargas, 31, of Stroudsburg, PA, were sentenced Friday after being convicted in October on multiple counts of promoting prostitution for their respective roles in an illicit sex trafficking operation.

The case centered around the pair forcing a 21-year-old Massachusetts woman into prostitution, after hiring her under the guise of being an exotic dancer.

The defendants picked up the woman in Massachusetts and drove her to Queens, where she was later required to have sex with multiple men every day and hand over the cash to the couple.

The young woman and several other women were advertised for sex by the couple on backpage.com, a site that was shut down by the FBI last year.

The woman told the couple that she no longer wanted to work for them after being subject to brutal treatment, according to the Queens DA.

Vargas would assault the victim if she slept late and missed scheduled appointments, according to court testimony. He slapped the victim and told her to call him “daddy” as punishment.

He also urinated on her as a way to establish her as his property.

The victim attempted to escape from the Flushing Hotel, located at 36-38 Main St., where she was forcibly held several times, only to be attacked and detained by O’Sullivan each time. The young woman was finally able to reach out to her family, who called police.

The investigation that led to the couple’s arrest started on Jan. 7, 2017, when undercover officers responded to an ad on backpage.com.  An undercover officer met the victim on Main Street in Flushing and she agreed to sex in exchange for $200. At 4 a.m. the following morning, police identified and arrested the couple outside the Flushing hotel, while they were smoking in a car.

After a five-week trial, O’Sullivan and Vargas were convicted of three counts of sex trafficking and second and third-degree promoting prostitution. They were sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years on the non-violent charges and 17 years on the violent sex trafficking charge.

“The victim in this case – a young woman forced into prostitution – endured both emotional and physical trauma at the hands of these two defendants,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement. “The two used physical force and intimidation to make her have sex dates with strangers and turn over the cash to them. They have both been convicted and will serve a lengthy term in prison for their predatory actions.”

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