SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The leader of a sex trafficking ring in Santa Clara County, who recruited minors through social media, has pleaded guilty to several counts in federal court and faces decades in prison, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney David Anderson and FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett issued a joint statement announcing the court decision in a case involving Ariel Guizar-Cuellar.

The 38-year-old San Jose man has admitted that from approximately September of 2014 until approximately January of 2016, he and various co-conspirators operated an unlawful commercial sex venture in San Jose and Santa Clara that sold the sexual services of adult women and at least three minor girls.

Federal prosecutors said Guizar-Cuellar was the leader, primary facilitator, enforcer and main financial beneficiary of the unlawful commercial sex venture.

He recruited the minors through social media networks, prosecutors said, taking pictures of them and causing those pictures to be posted in online advertisements for their sexual services on “backpage.com.”

Guizar-Cuellar transported the minors to various hotels and motels in the Bay Area to facilitate their prostitution dates with adult customers. He provided condoms for the minors to use during their prostitution dates and collected money from the minors after their dates.

He also admitted that he made a recording of one of the minors engaging in sexual activity during a prostitution date in Sunnyvale and gave methamphetamine to some of the minors to entice them to continue working for him. He specifically told the minors to conceal their true ages.

Guizar-Cuellar pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children; three counts of sex trafficking of children and one count of sexual exploitation of children. Guizar-Cuellar pleaded guilty to all counts charged in the indictment.

He is currently in federal custody awaiting sentencing on October 22, 2019.

The maximum statutory penalty for each count of sex trafficking minors is life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The maximum statutory penalty for child exploitation is 30 years, with a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.

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