Las Vegas Sun

December 3, 2022

Currently: 54° — Complete forecast

Pimps force underage girls to work in Nevada brothels, Oregon police say

"It's happening right now," said Detective Greg Harvey of the Lane Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team in Eugene, Ore. "It's amazing how many girls are shipped from here to different brothels in northern and southern Nevada. Many are underage."

One such case was prosecuted last month. Another arrest was made Tuesday. Harvey said a third Oregon case involving a Nevada brothel will be filed in two weeks.

No Nevada brothel owners have been charged with a crime. No evidence shows brothel owners or managers are working with the Oregon pimps, Harvey said.

Sgt. Bill Petty of the Storey County Sheriff's Department said cases of underage prostitutes are rare in his county just east of Reno. Storey County has three brothels, and Harvey linked one - the Old Bridge Ranch - to two of the underage-prostitution cases.

Petty said he arrested girls younger than 18 for prostitution, but said he has no idea how many underage prostitutes have been arrested in his county in the past two years.

Storey County District Attorney Janet Hess said only one case of an underage girl working at a brothel has reached her office in the last two years. She said that case was not prosecuted because the girl's mother came to Reno from Oregon and took custody of her before the case was brought to Hess' attention.

David Burgess, owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, said any arrests are "isolated cases" and his managers do everything they can to avoid hiring underage girls. Regarding Cindy K. Stone, 16, who worked at the Old Bridge last year, Burgess showed a reporter her Storey County sheriff's work card and several documents - including an Oregon driver's license - that showed her age as 23.

"If they've got the proper ID, there's no way we can tell," he said.

"I doubt pimps sending girls to brothels is widespread, but even if it was, they have the IDs and we have no way of knowing it's false."

One pimp, Michael Don Kelly, was convicted in Eugene last month. He faces sentencing next month on 31 counts of promoting prostitution, two counts of coercion and one count of each of compelling prostitution, forgery, theft and kidnapping. Possible sentences total more than 110 years.

Kelly's conviction was partly based on the case of Stone, who worked at Old Bridge Ranch before she was killed in an auto accident near Carlin a year ago. Burgess said he never heard of Kelly.

"The pimps are pretty sophisticated," Harvey said. "They have stacks of birth certificates they use to get Oregon drivers' licenses and ID cards."

Harvey said the pimps are especially interested in placing young girls in brothels so they can send their earnings back to Oregon.

"The younger they look, the more money they make," he said.

Cynthia Davis, Cindy Stone's mother, said she is haunted and disgusted with what happened to her daughter.

"I pray to God that no other mother has to go through what I went through," said Davis, who has researched similar Oregon prostitution cases and launched her own crusade against the pimps.

"The police tell me these cases are hard to put together," Davis said. "Some of the girls are runaways as young as 13. The girls are so terrified or think they are so in love with their pimps, it's hard to get them to testify."

Harvey agreed prostitution cases are hard to put together, but said the Nevada connection is being exposed slowly. Some of the underage girls have been arrested in Nevada, and at least two have fled brothels to return to their families.

Sgt. Pete Kerns, who works with Harvey, said the Kelly/Stone case led to an arrest Tuesday of another alleged pimp in Eugene. Terrence Jason Schehen, 20, is charged with 21 counts of prostitution, five counts of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a minor, and one count each of compelling prostitution, assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm and larceny.

"We're picking the pimps off one by one," Harvey said.

Some Oregon pimps being investigated appear to have a "decades-old" practice of sending women and girls to Nevada brothels, he said.

"Never buy the line that nobody under 18 works in (Nevada brothels)," he said. "It's happening."

Harvey said he has nothing to link brothel management with the pimps but "the investigation is ongoing."