EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A woman who was among 10 people arrested in Baltimore on charges of running a prostitution ring in El Paso was denied bail Wednesday after pleading not guilty.
Four other defendants also pleaded not guilty before a federal judge, but waived their rights to detention hearings and their request to be released on bond. Two more defendants also have pleaded guilty but remained in Baltimore on account of their advanced pregnancies. One of these women is out on bond while the other remains in custody.
Three more suspects among the five men and five women — including alleged ringleader, 43-year-old Alarcon Allen Wiggins — were awaiting attorney assignments and scheduled for initial hearings Monday.
A federal indictment alleges that starting in December 2009, Wiggins and his group enticed women to come to the West Texas border city of El Paso and forced them into prostitution. It also alleges the suspects seized the women’s earnings and cell phones so they could not ask for help.
Wiggins denied the charges during his initial hearing where an attorney was appointed for his defense.
“We are being set up? What if we didn’t do it? They drive us from our home, they put chains on us for 30 days and nobody listens to us. We might be sitting for a year here and nobody will listen to us,” Wiggins complained to federal Judge Robert Castaneda.
He also said the mother of his soon-to-be-born child is being held in detention. Castaneda instructed him to bring all those concerns to his attorney.
The Attorney General’s office is seeking that upon conviction, the defendants forfeit their alleged proceeds from the scheme, totaling about $1 million and two cars. All 10 defendants were arrested by the SWAT team of the Baltimore police on Oct. 12.
FBI Special Agent Peter Angell testified that defendant Holly N. Reemer, 24, was the “bottom girl” of co-defendant Deyonta Thompson, 23. A “bottom girl”, he explained, is the woman that aids a pimp in recruiting other women into prostitution.
During Wednesday hearing Angell testified that Wiggins and the others all lived in a house in northwest El Paso and during the time they lived there several calls were made to police and Child Protective Services reporting physical abuse of women and children.
The women who were being prostituted would be physically abused when they didn’t comply with Wiggins’ request to relinquish surrender the money they had earned or when they would try to leave, Angell said.
When Child Protective Services started an investigation into the reported abuse and neglect of at least five children living in the household, the 10 defendants fled altogether taking their victims with them, added the FBI agent. Angell also testified that Reemer drove one of the vehicles in which the victims were taken to Colorado during their flight.
Reemer’s defense attorney, Jorge Luis Rivas, asked for her to be released on bond but federal judge Castaneda denied it. Prosecutor Brandy Gardes stated that Reemer has no recent known address, no driver’s license and would be extremely hard to track down if she decided to flee.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)