By Christina Carrega
A Queens jury convicted a married couple who coerced a 21-year-old woman into sex work out of a Flushing hotel.
Elizabeth O’Sullivan, 31, and Lee Vargas, 24, picked up the woman from Massachusetts in October 2016 and drove her to Queens for stripper gig in Queens. The woman was duped by the couple who forced her to have sex with several men in exchange for money per day.
“[The victim] endured both emotional and physical trauma at the hands of these two defendants,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown in a statement. “The two used physical force and intimidation to make her have sex dates with strangers and turn over the cash to them.”
O’Sullivan of Bay Ridge and Vargas of Stroudsburg, PA were found guilty of three counts of sex trafficking and second- and third-degree promoting prostitution charges.
They placed an advertisement of the victim in this case and several other women on Backpage.com. At some point, the 21-year-old woman tried to stop the abuse, but when when she tried to leave O’Sullivan was waiting outside her door.
The brutal treatment escalated when Vargas forced her to call him “Daddy,” prosecutors said. He slapped her repeatedly, choked and threw her on the floor whenever she missed dates with johns. He also humiliated her by urinating on her.
According to testimony during five-week-long trial in front of acting Queens Supreme Court Justice Peter Vallone Jr., the victim finally managed to contact her family, who notified police.
In January 2017, an undercover emergency officer answered to the online advertisement and met the victim at the Flushing Main Street location. The couple was arrested the next morning.
Judge Vallone Jr. is expected to sentence the couple on Nov. 13. They each face up to 25 years in prison.