Juvenile prostitution may be on the rise in Salt Lake City.
"We have had more cases involving juvenile prostitutes brought to our attention in the past month than any other time in the past 12 years," said assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Lambert.Federal charges have been filed against four men and a woman accused of running two separate teenage prostitute rings.
Salt Lake police learned of one ring after someone called the police June 2 and reported that a 13-year-old girl had just been raped. When police interviewed the girl, they learned that she was a runaway from Tacoma, Wash., according to charges filed in U.S. District Court.
She met two men and a woman who persuaded her to become a prostitute, promising her that she could make a lot of money. The trio then trained her how to be a prostitute and drove her to Portland, Ore., where the girl made $200. She gave the money to one of the men.
The four then came to Utah. "The four were under the impression that they could make more money in Salt Lake City through prostitution," according to the charges.
After arriving here, the teenager and one of the men prostituted themselves on South State Street. The girl made more than $700 during her two days of prostitution.
Tanya Chaison and Terry Edward Donald have each been charged with one count of interstate transportation of a minor for the purpose of prostitution.
The two were charged with the federal transportation crime because of its stiff sentence, Lambert said.
"I think pimps are used to being slapped on the hand. But when they are involved with the interstate transportation of juveniles for prostitution, they can look forward to years in prison."
The couple face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Lambert hopes vigorous prosecution will end the apparent surge in teenage prostitution here.
Four days after a complaint was filed against the Washington couple, similar charges were filed against three men accused of bringing three teenage girls from Montana to Utah for prostitution.
The girls were 13, 16 and 17 years old.
"One of the unusual things we are seeing lately is groups of prostitutes entirely comprised of girls under 18 years of age," Lambert said. Pimps appear to be moving these groups from state to state.
The 13-year-old girl told police a man enticed her into prostitution by promising her that she could make "thousands, millions" of dollars by being a prostitute, the complaint says.
The man taught the girl how to check out a potential customer to see if he was a police officer, according to the complaint.
The 13-year-old told Salt Lake police that she was under the control of three different pimps during her time in Salt Lake City and Billings.
For four months, the group traveled back and forth from Billings to Salt Lake City several times and then to Las Vegas, Sacramento and Phoenix.
Michael Sallis, Steven A. Laster and Antonio Willis have been charged with the unlawful transportation of minors.
Pimps may focus on teenage girls because "its easier for them to dominate and control younger, unsophisticated girls," Lambert said.
Lambert declined comment on the fate of the girls.