DETROIT, Mich. — A sex-trafficking case involving two teen girls and three suburban women is unfolding in federal court where a 67-year-old parolee was charged Friday with holding the females against their will, drugging them, selling them into prostitution — and beating them if they didn't perform well.
The victims include two teenage girls — one 15; the other 12 to 14 — who remain missing after one of the women helped them escape from a bathroom window, according to the criminal complaint. One of the young girls had been beaten in the face, a source told the Free Press. The adult victims — one of whom is 31 and two others who are 21 — are all from Downriver.
The accused is Richard Jackson, a habitual offender from Detroit with 17 aliases who has been in and out of prison for most of his adult life for crimes including armed robbery, drug possession and assault.
On Thursday, Jackson was charged in U.S. District Court with sex trafficking for allegedly running a prostitution ring out of a house on South Electric in southwest Detroit and forcing women to "walk the track" as prostitutes at Michigan and Livernois, as well as pimping them out on the Internet. To keep them from escaping, he locked them in an upstairs room and kept a steel gate at the top of the stairs, according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.
Authorities were tipped off about the sex ring at about 1 p.m. Thursday, when Detroit police received a 911 call from a woman inside the house saying that someone had been knocked down. When police arrived, one woman told the officers that she was being held against her will and forced to prostitute.
"My sister’s in the basement. You’ve got to get to her. He’s going to kill her," she told the officers, according to the police report.
According to the criminal complaint, police found three women in the home, all of whom were taken to a hospital for medical treatment. The two juveniles were not in the home when police arrived. One of the women told officers that she had witnessed Jackson physically assault one of the girls. She became concerned for the minors' welfare, so she helped them escape through the bathroom window.
The woman also told police that Jackson pumped them with drugs and beat them if they refused to work or didn't perform well as prostitutes, the complaint stated.
According to an FBI agent's affidavit, one of the women was interviewed by police and told them she had known Jackson for several years, but started speaking to him more regularly about six months ago. She visited his house and he let her use his car. Then about two months ago, she said, he forced her to stay at the house, where there were "always other girls."
"Jackson and his associates would get the girls hooked on drugs in order to keep them at the house," the affidavit states. "They often gave them heroin just long enough to have them addicted. Once (they were) addicted, Jackson and his associates began making the girls do commercial sex dates and move drugs for them."
The sex dates varied. Sometimes Jackson and a friend would drive the girls to their dates and keep an eye on them the entire night. The prices varied, but Jackson kept all of their money. He advertised the girls on Backpage.com and used his phone to set up ads for the victims, the affidavit states.
Two back rooms on the first floor of the Electric Street house also were used for sex dates.
Jackson was the so-called "house monitor," the affidavit said. One of his victims told police that Jackson broke her left arm after she told him that she didn't want to go on any more sex dates. She was hospitalized. When she returned, Jackson broke the same arm again, the complaint states.
Police arrested Jackson on Thursday during that 911 response. According to the complaint, he admitted that he lived at the house but denied being involved with prostitution or drugs.
Authorities said they searched Jackson's cell phone and found multiple text messages discussing prices, sex acts and locations for prostitution. Jackson's cell phone number also was found in an advertisement in Detroit's escort section on Backpage.com. One was listed under "kitty" and stated "ask about the 2 girls specials Text or call about prices."
Jackson made an initial appearance Friday afternoon in federal court and is temporarily locked up pending a bond hearing on Monday.
Meanwhile, the FBI is seeking the public's help in locating the two juveniles who escaped from the house. Anyone with information about the two girls, or with information about the alleged sex trafficking operation, is asked to contact the FBI at 313-965-2323.
Follow Tresa Baldas on Twitter: @TBaldas