A Suffolk grand jury indicted a Dorchester man and a Plymouth woman Thursday, alleging the two ran a human trafficking and prostitution ring in the Boston area, prosecutors said.
Michael Leony, 50, had been charged with trafficking persons for sexual servitude and deriving support from prostitution in Dorchester District Court in December, but the case was moved to Suffolk Superior Court on Thursday, a statement from Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said.
Leony’s accomplice, Crystal Emerson, 29, was charged for the first time Thursday on one count of conspiracy to traffick persons for sexual servitude, the statement said. The two will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court at a later date.
“We allege this defendant, with assistance from another individual, exploited multiple women by transporting them to engage in commercial sex and arranging for their advertisements online, and then kept the profits from this operation,’’ Coakley said in the statement. “This investigation is part of our continuing effort to target human traffickers who exploit others for their own profit.’’
A joint investigation by Coakley’s office and Boston police last year revealed that Leoney allegedly ran the operation — coordinating the “recruitment’’ of women and finances, the statement said.
Emerson allegedly trained the women, set up advertisements online, and arranged for hotel rooms where the prostitution ring’s male clients would meet the women, the statement said.
No working phone numbers for the suspects could be located on Thursday.
Investigators, with the help of the victims, identified Leoney — whose business alias was “Pure’’ — as the leader of the prostitution and trafficking operation, according to the police report filed after Leoney’s arrest in December.
The unnamed women provided descriptions of Leoney and provided investigators with the pre-paid phones Leoney gave them to make contact with their “dates,’’ according to the police report filed after Leoney’s arrest in December.
The victims told investigators that Leoney required them to give him all payments for sexual encounters, and threatened them with physical violence, the report said.
Investigators were eventually able to build a case against Leoney by matching phone records with online “sex for a fee’’ advertisements and surveillance of him driving women to meet their “dates’’ in cars registered to his name, the report said.
“These indictments send a clear message to those individuals who look to engage in these types of illegal activities,’’ Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said in a statement. “Make no mistake, we will work with our law enforcement partners to find you and put you out of business and in jail.’’