First of five defendants to be sentenced in gang prostitution ring case

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Local,Virginia,Crime,Aubrey Whelan

A Fairfax man who pleaded guilty to charges that he lured local teenage girls into a gang-run prostitution ring will be sentenced Friday, and federal authorities say his punishment could influence the fates of four others who admitted to being part of the ring.

Michael Tavon Jefferies, 21, of Woodbridge, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a juvenile in federal court in April. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, but federal prosecutors are recommending a 25-year sentence, according to court documents.

Jefferies, prosecutors say, acted as a bodyguard in a prostitution ring run by the Underground Gangster Crips, a Fairfax-based branch of the Crips gang. Prosecutors say Jefferies drove teenage girls to neighborhoods to sell sex door to door, rented hotel rooms for the girls, bought them condoms and took out ads for the prostitution ring. He also had sex with new recruits, prosecutors say, a "demo" to initiate girls into the ring.

The men have admitted that they lured girls into prostitution, offered them drugs and resorted to physical violence when victims threatened to leave, court documents show. At least 10 girls were involved in the ring, which operated from 2009 to 2012, prosecutors said.

"Although Jefferies did not play a leadership role in this enterprise, he nevertheless was an integral part of this operation," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing recommendation. "Jefferies was no passive bystander in the operation, but instead, was actively involved."

Jefferies was one of three bodyguards for the ring, according to court documents. Another man served as a driver. The group's leader, authorities said, was Justin Strom, 26. All five were arrested in March, and all have since pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors pledged to seek "significant" sentences against the men, who used social media to reach the girls, then offered compliments and promises of easy money to lure them into a life of prostitution.

If Jefferies gets the recommended 25-year sentence, officials said it's likely Strom and the others will face similarly stiff penalties.

"He is the first of these people indicted to be sentenced," said Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria, "and the sentence he receives will be used as a guiding point for the other sentences."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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