Colorado's attorney general said Tuesday that child sex trafficking has become a serious problem throughout the state.
On Monday, Attorney General John Suthers' office announced that 12 people had been indicted for running and patronizing a Denver-based child prostitution ring. The group is accused of selling girls all over the state, including in Colorado Springs.
"Several were members of the Crips gang, and there was a lot of coercion involved," said Suthers. "What typically happens happened in this case: they run across some runaways, do some favors for them, and the next thing you know, they're prostituting them."
According to the indictment, two teen girls were beaten and forced to perform sex acts. The pimps allegedly used the website Backpage.com, a site investigated by TARGET 13 for its child sex ads, to sell the teens.
"In my personal experience, I don't think I've ever seen an incident of corporate irresponsibility quite as significant as Backpage.com," said Suthers.
Case after case has shown that children are being sold on Backpage.com
Suthers has joined other attorneys general in a campaign to get the adult section of the site taken down. He said he's never gotten a response from the owners.
"We've been reading for years now about the fact that American men will go to southeast Asia for sex tourism and things like that, but I think we have come to grips with the fact that we have a serious problem here in Colorado," said Suthers.
The self-reported gang members arrested are Lawrence Richard Martinez, 22, Reginald James Ryan, 31, and Angela Jeanine Ryan, 42.
Robert Kenth Drinkwater-Mills, 19, Lewis Jerome Smith, 42, Mercedes Devon Sanders, 22, Phaedra Lanee Robinson, 42, and Hollie Gene Mintour, 40, made up the "criminal enterprise."
The alleged "johns" arrested are Hayatullah Khazi, 28, Grant Richard Schoengarth, 32, Richard Neil Gottbreht, 63, and Nathan Theodore Hom, 36.