By Jonathan Sperling
A couple who repeatedly beat a woman, urinated on her and forced her to perform sex work out of a Flushing hotel were sentenced to up to more than two decades in prison Friday.
Elizabeth O’Sullivan, 31, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and Lee Vargas, 34, of Pennsylvania, were charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution for their roles in an sex trafficking operation they managed between October 2016 and January 2017.
The defendants hired the 21-year-old victim under the guise of a job as an exotic dancer and stripper. Instead, the unidentified victim was forced to have sex for cash and turn over all the money she made to the O’Sullivan and Vargas.
“The victim in this case — a young woman forced into prostitution — endured both emotional and physical trauma at the hands of these two defendants. The two used physical force and intimidation to make her have sex dates with strangers and turn over the cash to them,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who added that the conviction marks the first violent felony sex trafficking conviction in Queens since the state legislature increased the penalties in 2016.
“They have both been convicted and will serve a lengthy term in prison for their predatory actions,” Brown continued.
The victim was first kidnapped in October 2016, when the couple picked her up in Massachusetts and drove her to Queens.
O’Sullivan and Vargas advertised her, along with several other women, as a prostitute on backpage.com. Vargas would slap, choke and throw her to the floor when the victim overslept and missed scheduled appointments for sex with her “clients.”
Vargas also peed on the woman in order to make clear that she belonged to him, according to court filings.
The victim often tried to leave the Flushing hotel room where she was held captive, only to be met at the door by O’Sullivan, who would attack her and force her to remain inside the room.
The victim finally managed to reach out to her family, who called police. An undercover NYPD rescue operation began on Jan. 7, 2017, when an officer responded to one of the advertisements on backpage.com. The officer, who was told to come to the Main Street hotel, met the victim and agreed to engage in sexual intercourse for $200.
At around 4 a.m., the following morning, authorities returned to the hotel and arrested the defendants as they were sitting in a vehicle outside of the hotel.
Supreme Court Justice Peter Vallone Jr. sentenced the pair to an indeterminate term of 8 1/3 to 25 years on the two non-violent sex trafficking charges and a determinate term of 17 years on the violent sex trafficking charge.