A 25-year-old South Ozone Park man was sentenced this week to three to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to forcing teenage girls into prostitution in Queens, a borough that has become a gateway for sex and human trafficking, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said this week.
Woodley Gaston was the first person to be charged under the state’s 2007 sex traffficking statute. He was charged with pimping two 16-year-old girls and an 18-year-old, according to the DA. Additionally, he used Craigslist to post sexually explicit photos of two of the victims, Brown said.
He forced one of the 16-year-olds to work for him as a prostitute on Sutphin Boulevard and South Conduit Avenue, near JFK International Airport.
“This defendant preyed on troubled and needy teenage girls, using them for his sexual gratification and then as a commodity to be sold to others for cash which he then pocketed for himself,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Today’s sentence will help to deter others who would traffic in vulnerable girls, gaining their trust and then betraying that trust.”
According to the charges, Gaston befriended one of the 16-year-old girls by buying her clothes and paying for her to get her nails and hair done, after which he pimped her out.
Gaston pleaded guilty last month to two counts of sex trafficking, two counts of promoting prostitution, and two counts of third-degree rape.
In addition to serving time in prison, he must register as a sex offender.
JFK and LaGuardia have become major portals through which sex and human trafficking victims will often come, said Ann Jawin, president of the Center for the Women of New York.
The center has held a number of panel discussions about sex trafficking in Queens.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 women, children and men are trafficked into this country every year. It is likely individuals walking around New York City have encountered some of them without even knowing it, people working with victims in Queens have said.
Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and areas in Flushing and around the airports have become especially busy hubs for trafficked individuals, according to officials working with victims.
The DA’s office said they have worked to target traffickers instead of prostitutes.