A man in Long Island, New York, was accused of operating a prostitution ring out of his parent's basement.
Raymond Rodio III, 47, pleaded not guilty to eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges of promoting prostitution during a court hearing Thursday. According to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini, the accused trafficked 22 women between 2014 and February 2019. He allegedly drugged his victims and held them captive against their will in the basement of his parents' house in Sound Beach.
"This is a dangerous and depraved individual," Sini said during a press conference Thursday. "He kept women locked up in the basement of his parents' house, using the basement as a dungeon. He preyed on women using their vulnerabilities and their drug dependencies to maintain his control over them. With this indictment, we are putting an end to his criminal operation and his victimization of over 20 women."
The Suffolk County Police Department launched an investigation into Rodio III after officers pulled him over during a routine car stop in August 2018.
"Those officers, based on their training, recognized that a passenger in that car appeared to be a victim of human trafficking," Sini said.
The case was referred to the department's Human Trafficking Investigations Unit, which determined that the victim was allegedly forced into sex trafficking in the spring of 2018 by the suspect. Further investigation revealed that Rodio III targeted women by posting advertisements on websites like Backpage and Craigslist. He allegedly tried to entice victims by convincing them they would keep either a large percentage or the entirety of the profits they make through prostitution.
Sini also described the deplorable conditions into which the victims were kept in details.
"Some of the victims were forced to stay in the basement for long periods of time, where there's no shower, no bathrooms — they were forced to use a bucket as a toilet," he said, adding, the women "were not allowed to go anywhere except for the basement, which was outfitted with a lock on the door."
There were no windows in the basement, which was split into two rooms by a sheet hung in the middle. One of the makeshift rooms contained a bed with a leopard-printed cover and a number of shelves stocked with lotion, suspected sex toys and a bottle of chocolate syrup.
"There was also, seemingly family portraits on the wall and, from my view of one photograph... a pin-up board and it looks like a prayer card with Jesus on it," he continued. "I thought that was particularly ironic."
There was also a second half of the basement which contained the bucket where the women relieved themselves, a washing machine and a dryer. "That's often where the defendant would hide when women were having sex with customers," Sini added.
The suspect also allegedly provided the women with drugs so they developed a dependency on him and could easily be manipulated into performing sex with clients at various motels throughout Suffolk County. "He would then hold their addictions — their diseases — over their heads to force them to continue to work for him," the district attorney said.
The suspect's parents, who lived upstairs in the house, were not charged in the case. Rodio III's father told Eyewitness News that he and his wife suspected something was not right when it came to their son's actions but had no idea that he was running a prostitution ring in their house. "I knew something was going on," he said. "Drugs, that I know. I've tried to get him into so many drug programs."
Rodio III was held on a $2 million bond and he will face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.