Two people were arrested after allegedly preying on women as they violently forced them to engage in sex acts across the country, and even post content on the website OnlyFans.
Jonathan Ruiz and Charline Santiago allegedly ran a sex trafficking operation that spanned six states, including in New York City, according to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The 29-year-old Ruiz and 27-year-old Santiago, a couple with children, conspired to traffic the women in their mid-20s throughout the tri-state, as well as in Delaware, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, Bragg said.
According to court documents and statements, the trafficking occurred for a year from Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021, with the couple profiting from the sex acts they allegedly forced the women into. Santiago often drove the women to hotels and waited outside, accepting payment in cash or on CashApp.
Ruiz would beat the women, brandish a gun, withhold their personal identification — even force them to take cocaine, according to prosecutors. Ruiz and Santiago were able to disguise their profits by establishing an LLC in Connecticut, listing themselves as executives. The couple, from Ohio, fraudulently issued pay stubs and maintained extensive records of transactions between them and clients.
At one point, Ruiz moved some of the women to a house in Connecticut. He would force the women into prostitution by hitting them if they didn’t want to work, or if they stashed money to save, tried to escape or fell asleep when he wanted them to work, court documents showed. Many women suffered black eyes and other bruises, with cuts and deep scars.
If the women did not earn a specific amount of money in a given day, Ruiz would allegedly beat them or not allow them to eat, and would force them to use cocaine to stay awake and earn more.
To prevent the women from running away, the couple would keep any government forms and IDs, including birth certificates and social security cards, prosecutors said. The couple would then use the information to get government benefits and loans in their name, with Ruiz collecting thousands in state and federal benefits intended for the women, emails and bank records showed.
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One of the women was forced by Ruiz to take nude photos, create sex videos and speak with clients on OnlyFans.com, according to the charges, after he created an account without the women’s knowledge or consent.
Ruiz and Santiago were charged with conspiracy, sex trafficking and promoting prostitution. Ruiz was also charged with labor trafficking after forcing the one woman into making OnlyFans videos.
“These horrific allegations detail an abhorrent sex trafficking scheme that preyed on vulnerable people so the ringleaders could turn a profit,” said District Attorney Bragg. “The Internet gives traffickers new ways to exploit people through economic, emotional, physical and psychological coercion.”
Attorney information for Ruiz and Santiago was not immediately clear.