ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - Eleven Eastern European immigrants went on trial in Florida on Tuesday on federal charges of importing foreign sex workers and operating a commercial prostitution business in the United States.
A twelfth defendant, 24-year-old Roman Caraiman of Moldova, remains a fugitive, according to U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Amy Filjones.
The alleged sex-trafficking ring posted provocative advertisements for massages on Craig's List and other websites, and provided sexual services in central Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts, according to the group's indictment.
Authorities say the ring operated between July 2009 and February 2011. Several women were imported from Russia to expand the business, and the group was actively recruiting sex workers from other countries, the indictment said.
The charges against the ring involve recruiting, employing and hiding illegal aliens; importing and controlling foreign sex workers; and transporting sex workers across state lines, according to the indictment.
The defendants, who are standing trial in Orlando, came from countries that were part of the collapsed Soviet Union. Tatiana Belinschi, 25; Alexandr Postica, 25; Vlada Blisciuc, 23; and Irina Luchina, 22, are from Moldova, the DOJ said.
Saida Babaeva, 28; Elena Shashurova, 24; Elena Abushinova, 24; Aleksandra Liubina, 23; and Natalia Fedorova, 23, are from Russia. Kateryna Krykovlyuk and Alina Priadko, both 24, are from Ukraine.
(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)