SANTA ANA – A couple have pleaded guilty to federal charges of transporting two girls, ages 14 and 17, for the purpose of selling their sexual services in Anaheim and other cities.
At a change of plea hearing, Eric Lamar Wells and Tonisha Alecia Moore pleaded guilty to two felonies in what a federal indictment describes as a multi-state pimping operation.
Wells, 24, is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney in Santa Ana on Oct. 22.
Moore, 22, is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 5. She is a prostitute and the mother of Wells’ child, according to authorities.
Both remain in custody.
Wells and Moore pleaded guilty last week to two counts of transportation of minors into prostitution, making them eligible for a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and five years of supervised release. The maximum penalty is lifetime imprisonment and lifetime supervised release.
A federal indictment May 24 charged Wells and Moore with six counts related to pimping minors in a case that unfolded after Anaheim police spotted the 14-year-old leaving a CVS drugstore on Beach Boulevard by herself in an area frequented by prostitutes.
The girl told police that Wells, who went by “Charlie,” first met her and her 17-year-old companion April 16 when the two teens were working in Las Vegas as prostitutes.
Wells told the girls that they could be making $500 per day, and persuaded them to come to Phoenix with him and his girlfriend to work as prostitutes, according to court documents. After working in Arizona for a few days, the girls were brought to Anaheim on April 20 to sell their sexual services, according to an affidavit.
The girls were advertised through websites that portrayed them as 19-year-old women. On April 23, an ad headlined “2 New Exotic Ebony Vixens” was posted for the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Irvine under the Orange County escorts section of one of the websites, according to court documents.
According to the indictment, the night before Anaheim police spotted the 14-year-old, Wells and Moore collected $300 from the girls after the teens met a client at a hotel in Anaheim for sex acts.
Wells and Moore were arrested April 24 at a hotel in Sacramento where officials believe they had taken the older minor to work as a prostitute, and authorities seized their cellphones and laptop computers for evidence.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office initially filed charges against Wells and Moore but dismissed the case in mid-May when the FBI, Southern California Innocence Lost Task Force and federal prosecutors got involved.
Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, said authorities are seeking other potential victims and that Anaheim police continue to work on the investigation.
By GREG HARDESTY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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