CENTRAL ISLIP - Opening arguments were presented today in the trial of three people accused of running a Suffolk County sex-slave ring.
Convicted sex offender Antonio Rivera, his sister, Jasmine Rivera, and John Whaley were arrested in 2009. Police say the trio hired Central American women as waitresses at their bars in Lake Ronkonkoma and Farmingville.
Prosecutors say when the women came to work, they were forced to have sex with patrons. Women who refused claim they were beaten and raped.
Antonio Rivera, Whaley and Jason Villaman, a former security guard at one of the bars, were charged with sex trafficking, forced labor and alien harboring. Rivera's sister, the owner of the two bars, was also charged, but she made a deal with federal prosecutors in January and is now a cooperating witness.
Today, investigators from the Suffolk police department and the Department of Homeland Security testified about surveillance and raids conducted at the bars, where they say they found signs and flyers promising men 30 waitresses for them to have an unforgettable night with.
The defense attempted to discredit the women, many of whom are illegal immigrants, claiming that they will say what the government wants since they are getting to stay in the country.
Beginning tomorrow, a long list of alleged victims is expected to take the stand.
The three accused men are being held without bail. If convicted, they face life in prison.
Trial set to begin in Suffolk sex-trafficking case