SCHENECTADY — A man who admitted to running a sex trafficking ring has been sentenced to 10 years in state prison, the Schenectady County District Attorney's Office said.
The ring extended over multiple states, used the website Backpage.com, and was based for a time in Schenectady, prosecutors said. Three of his principal victims, one of whom was 16, were recruited in Schenectady, officials said.
Julio Escobar, 32, of Brooklyn, appeared in court last week for sentencing. Judge Kathleen Hogan imposed the maximum possible prison term under Escobar's plea deal. Prosecutors issued a news release about the sentencing Wednesday.
Escobar has been in custody since 2017. While he pleaded guilty in January 2018 to sex trafficking, he wasn't sentenced until last week.
The investigation began, prosecutors said, with interviews of women arrested on prostitution offenses.
Escobar was arrested after a six-month joint investigation by the District Attorney's Office, state police and Schenectady police.
He was accused of managing an enterprise that involved more than a dozen women and advertised sex services throughout the Capital Region and from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania.
Escobar arranged meetings, negotiated pricing and escorted the women to the locations. He then took up to 100 percent of the money the women earned, prosecutors said.
He controlled the women through threats to expose their activities on social media, restricting communication, providing drugs to impair their judgement and threatening to withhold drugs, prosecutors said. He also threatened physical force.
"What he did was pretty terrible, and I think the 10-year sentence fits the crime," prosecutor Eamonn Neary said. "He really exerted his control over these young women."
The plea deal offered the judge the option to sentence Escobar from anywhere between five and 10 years. After arguments last week, she chose the maximum possible term. Escobar was represented by attorney Frederick Rench.
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney credited Neary's work, as well as the work of prosecutor Daniel Bulger, who took the time to work with Escobar's young victims and gain their trust.
Carney noted that interviews with those who were arrested for prostitution offenses led them to Escobar and revealed his role. Escobar then became the target of the investigation.
"We hope the long sentence he received will stand as a warning to any other men who seek to exploit and corrupt young women for their own selfish purposes of the potential consequences of that criminal behavior," Carney said in a statement.