Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced the indictments Monday.
"Human trafficking and child prostitution are tragic crimes, from the devastating effects they have on their victims to the mere fact that the use and sale of persons persists in our world today," Suthers said. "This indictment underlines law enforcement’s commitment to vigorously investigate and prosecute any and all cases of human trafficking we encounter."
Patrick Lloyd McGowan, 22; Chad Armand Gow, 20; Roy Manuel Ibarra-Gonzales, 20; and Bryan Steven Burns, 20, oversaw a human trafficking ring that involved the prostitution of children as well as the sale of methamphetamine and cocaine, according to the indictments.
McGowan, Gow, Ibarra-Gonzales and Burns are suspected of arranging "out calls" for the child victims through the Internet and coercing their victims through the use of drugs and threats of violence, Suthers said. The three are suspected of transporting children to locations in Denver, Boulder, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction and Lakewood for sex, he said.
Wheat Ridge Runaway Call Led To Alleged Child Prostitution Discovery
A Wheat Ridge couple reporting their daughter as a runaway led to the discovery of the potential human trafficking scheme.
"This young lady's parents were very concerned that she had been forced into child prostitution," said Lisa Spinder, spokeswoman for the Wheat Ridge Police Department.
According to Spinder, police found the girl, but she would run away again. This happened repeatedly until a school resource officer learned information about the teen, and then passed that information to investigators.
"The more we got involved in trying to bring this young lady back home, the more it became clear there was something else going on," said Spinder.
AG: Child Prostitution Happening Online
According to Suthers, the child prostitution occurred through the use of personal ads on Backpage.com, a site with personal listings similar to Craigslist.
"They were making these arrangements over this website, delivering the girls to these locations for the purpose of sex," said Suthers. "We've had an ongoing discussions with (backpage.com), asking them to be more corporately responsible."
The website came under scrutiny in Washington state this past week for similar human trafficking allegations.
The site does have a link users can click on if they feel they see human trafficking being promoted.
Investigation Also Led To Drug Busts
The indictments also accuse McGowan of selling methamphetamine to an undercover officer at Casa Bonita in Lakewood on Dec. 21, 2011. Nearly 2 grams of meth was recovered from McGowan, according to the indictment. In addition, another 15 grams of meth was recovered when McGowan was booked into the Jefferson County Jail, the indictment stated.
On one occasion, one girl was held down on a hotel bed in Boulder and "subjected ... to sexual contact without her consent," the indictment alleged. The ring advertised the girls as prostitutes on the Internet, according to the indictment.
If convicted of trafficking in children, a Class 2 felony and the lead count of the indictment, McGowan, Gow, Ibarra-Gonzales and Burns each could face up to 24 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.
In addition to the ringleaders of the suspected human trafficking enterprise, the Office of the Attorney General also indicted 10 other individuals accused of either abetting or patronizing the operation. All but two of those indicted have been arrested.
Child Sex Trafficking Ring Broken, State AG Says
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