NEW YORK – A Long Island man ran a prostitution ring out of his elderly parents' sprawling suburban home, enticing women with drugs and locking them in a basement where he forced them to use a bucket instead of a bathroom, prosecutors said Thursday.
Raymond Rodio III, 47, used social media to recruit and advertise the women, got them hooked on heroin or crack cocaine, and forced them to have sex with men in the basement of the home, in Sound Beach, or at nearby motels, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini said.
"This is a dangerous and depraved individual," Sini said after Rodio's arraignment. "He kept women locked up in the basement of his parents' house. He used the basement of his parents' home as a dungeon."
Rodio operated the ring for about four years and victimized more than 20 women, Sini said.
Rodio's parents, who are in their 70s, may have known "something untoward" was going on, but not necessarily that their son was running a prostitution ring, Sini said. They are not charged with a crime.
Rodio pleaded not guilty Thursday to sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and other charges. He remains jailed because he hasn't posted $1 million cash bail or $2 million bond.
His next court appearance is scheduled for May 21. If convicted of the top charge, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
A message seeking comment was left with his lawyer.
Police uncovered the alleged prostitution ring after a routine traffic stop last August. Officers recognized that a passenger in the car appeared to be a victim of human trafficking, Sini said.
"As chilling and cruel as this case is, sex trafficking would not be possible or lucrative if not for the people who pay to the opportunity to sexually degrade the women being kept in these conditions," said National Sexual Violence Resource Center spokeswoman Kristen Houser.
From the outside, Rodio's parents' home appears typical of Sound Beach — a quiet, waterfront community about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of midtown Manhattan on Long Island's north shore. Recent photos show a half-dozen American flags in the home's spacious, meticulously manicured yard. There are birdhouses, wagon wheels and a driveway basketball hoop.
Inside, through a door and down the stairs from an unfinished garage, was a vile, windowless hellscape where Rodio held women for long stretches without access to a shower, a bathroom or the outside world, Sini said.
Rodio's makeshift brothel featured a bed with a leopard-print comforter, but also walls lined with family portraits and Jesus on a prayer card, Sini said. There were shelves full of lotions, a bottle of chocolate syrup and "all sorts of items that one could suspect were used in sex acts," Sini said.
"It's disgusting," he said.
In recruiting women, Sini said, Rodio targeted women who appeared to have drug dependence or who were somehow otherwise vulnerable. He would initially supply them with drugs for free so they would be dependent on him, the prosecutor said. Then, after setting them up with clients, he'd give them heroin or crack to impair their judgment, Sini said.
Rodio would use the money the clients paid to buy the women more drugs and underwrite his own crack habit, Sini said. If they resisted seeing a client or didn't fork over enough of the fees, he'd scream at them, Sini said. The flow of drugs made the women indebted to Rodio, Sini said, and the only way they could repay it was by performing sex acts.
"This is a common tactic used by traffickers. They essentially force their victims to become addicted to drugs, then use that addiction — that illness — to keep victims under their control," Sini said.
Follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak
Send news tips, documents and recordings to AP securely and confidentially: https://www.ap.org/tips/