Man gets 40 years for forcing teen into prostitution

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SAN DIEGO — A Hemet man was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in San Diego to 40 years in prison for forcing a 16-year-old girl into prostitution and keeping the money she made for himself.

A jury found Luther Gene Ray, 33, guilty in December 2015 of sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud or coercion.

The victim, a runaway, had met Ray the previous year, about a month after his release from an eight-year prison stint for committing the same crime in Los Angeles, according to prosecutors. At the time, he was on supervised release and required to register as a sex offender.

Though Ray promoted prostitution to the victim as a way to earn money for herself, the victim received none of her pay while he took thousands of dollars from her and from at least three other women who also worked for him in the underground sex trade, court documents state.

Ray used social media such as Facebook to boast about his lifestyle and assaulted the girl and the women he employed if they so much as looked at another man who might be a pimp, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alessandra P. Serano.

The teen alerted police to Ray’s crimes while she was in custody in juvenile hall.

Due to Ray’s status as a sex offender, U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez was required to impose an additional 10 years to his custody term.

During the sentencing hearing, Benitez asserted that the punishment would send a message that sexually exploiting women and girls through violence will not be tolerated.