DENVER (CBS4)– Six people linked to a child prostitution ring are in custody after a two-year investigation that included the FBI, police in Lakewood and the Jefferson County District Attorney.
It all began with a teenager who was being housed in a juvenile facility on a weapons charge. She came forward and said she had been held against her will and sexually assaulted.
Prosecutors say it was a well-guarded secret in the Timberleaf Apartment Homes located at 1388 Garrison in Lakewood.
The prostitution ring was operating out of the apartment complex where six people have been accused of luring 12-to-16 year old girls in to a life of prostitution by using meth as bait.
“That control is used to force these young girls to sell their bodies so that predator can get money,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Peter Weir.
The six suspects have been identified as Kevin Snuggs, Daniel Onodera, Pamela Lewis, Marshall Ashton, Nickolas Silk and Zenian Shaw. They are facing charges related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Onodera, 42, is the alleged ringleader of the child prostitution ring. He has been charged with trafficking of a child, pimping of a child, sex assault of a child, solicitation of a child for prostitution and keeping a place of child prostitution in addition to other crimes, two of them classified as violent crime.
Authorities are still looking for a seventh member of the alleged child trafficking ring. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Mark Wayne Turturice.
There were three female victims identified in this operation, one was 13 and two were 16-years-old. The girls did not know each other but had similarities. They had each run away from home, were truant from school and each had been lured into the prostitution net by drugs.
Some of the victims claim Onodera held them against their will and forced them to have sex with him and others. The ring is said to be operated around West Colfax Avenue where girls that might be runaways and in trouble with the law could be recruited.
“It is their backgrounds that make these children perfect targets for exploiters and offenders,” said prosecutor Katie Kurtz.
The girls connected to the case are being protected.
“They’re doing better. They are in a safe place right now. Our goal is to turn them from victims into survivors,” said Weir.
One of the girls being held against her will told investigators that although she wanted to leave she felt she couldn’t because she was the property of members of the ring.
Onodera, Lewis, and Ashton will be back in court on February 19 to be advised of the charges filed against them. Snuggs will be in court on February 28. Silk and Shaw were arrested in Denver on the Jeffco warrants and will be transported to the Jefferson County Detention Center.