- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

DETROIT, Jan. 15 (UPI) — Seven young girls and women were back with their families Wednesday after police freed them from what is being described as a sexual slavery ring.

The alleged ring was discovered after one of the girls broke free of her captors at a shopping mall and begged a security guard for help.

"She broke away from them and she ran over to me and she, like, literally jumped behind me," security guard Dorian McConnell told WXYZ-TV, Detroit. "She was saying, 'Help.' She started crying." McConnell said he and a co-worker stood between the girl and three men and two women who were trying to get her back. He eventually locked the doors to the store and called the police.

The 17-year-old said she had been kidnapped in Cleveland last Thursday at a bus stop. Another of the girls told investigators she was from Chicago.

Two men were arrested Monday in a house on Detroit's lower east side. The ringleader is described as a 32-year-old man from Chicago. The second suspect is 17. They were scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on criminal sexual conduct charges.

Police said most of the victims had histories as runaways. They had been recruited to sell jewelry on the street but then were beaten, sexually abused and forced into prostitution, police said.

Police said dozens more victims may be involved.

The alleged ring operated out of a three-bedroom bungalow. Police raided the house late Monday and found seven girls and women ages 13 to 21 as well as two infants. Six other men were in the house at the time but were not charged.

In early September, a young girl contacted police, saying she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted before she managed to escape. Subsequently, six similar incidents were reported.

"This is almost like that old-style pimp stuff you see on TV," Organized Crime Cmdr. Gerard Simon told the Detroit Free Press. "He (the ringleader) tried to make a family out of the group. He did that punishment-reward thing. They would get their nails and hair done. If they stepped out of line, they got beat down. Some of the senior women acted as enforcers."

Simon said the 32-year-old man would assault the victims when they were first abducted then force them to dance at an after-hours club where they were prostituted.

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