OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A Sacramento man has pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland to a charge of conspiring to coerce underage teenage girls into prostitution.
Mahendar Singh, 40, entered the plea on Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton. He will be sentenced by Hamilton on March 28 and faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.
Singh and his wife, Helen Singh, 22, were both indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 1 on the charge of conspiring to cause children under 18 to engage in commercial sex acts by means of force, fraud or coercion.
Helen Singh is scheduled to enter a change of plea before Hamilton on Jan. 18.
Helen Singh is currently free on a $50,000 bond. Mahendar Singh, who is also known as Mike Singh, is in custody without bail.
The couple was arrested by South San Francisco police on Aug. 20 at a motel near San Francisco International Airport after police allegedly found a 19-year-old woman and two 16-year-old girls in a room registered to Mahendar Singh.
A police spokesman said officers went to the motel after receiving a tip that a runaway girl had been seen near the property.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said that Mahendar Singh admitted during his plea that he conspired to operate a prostitution enterprise in Sacramento County and several Bay Area counties in 2011.
Singh admitted to recruiting teenage females to provide sex services in exchange for money and drugs and to knowing that at least one of the teenagers was a juvenile, Haag said.
The indictment alleged the Singhs regularly transported teenage girls between the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento County and used an Internet website to advertise their victims.
The document alleged the couple controlled the girls “by providing drugs, using physical force and threats of physical force and fostering a climate of fear.”
Haag said anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or a Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Calls may be anonymous.
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