Prostitution Ring Recruited Women At School, On Social Media | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Prostitution Ring Recruited Women At School, On Social Media

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The leader of a Fairfax County gang accused of running a prostitution ring has been indicted by a grand jury. A federal grand jury has indicted 26-year-old Justin Strom of Lorton, also known as "J-Dirt", who is accused of running a sex trafficking operation.

Strom recruited girls at school, in the mall or on the Metro, according to Ronald Hosko, the FBI agent who took the lead on the case.

"The recruitment of several of these victims, sadly, was surprisingly easy," Hosko said. "It was a compliment on the victim's appearance. 'You're pretty.' And that opened the door to a bigger conversation and an invitation to make some money."

Unlike much of the gang activity in Northern Virginia, which is tied to gangs from El Salvador, Strom was the head of a gang known as the Underground Gangster Crips. Although Strom and other gang members were African-American, many of the victims in the case are white and were recruited from Hispanic neighborhoods. 

"They had one girl who has a 3.9 GPA," Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said after the indictment. "Her parents are what most people would call very well-to-do in a good high school in Fairfax, recruited though a partner of the gang, in the school."

Records from the Fairfax County school system show that Strom and two other suspects in the prostitution ring attended Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield. The case has shocked the community, according to Abe Jeffers, the school's principal.

"This isn't something you would expect to be happening anywhere, that in this day and age people would be imprisoning high school students and forcing them to do things against their will," Jeffers said. 

After the gang members made personal contact with the girls, court records show, they would use social media to draw them into a life of prostitution. 

"The challenge of social media sites is that it opens the door and the window right into people's houses, and so it makes it a challenge for parents to police it and to be aware of it because it's coming right into your house through the fiber or through the cable," Hosko said.

Strom faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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