Prosecutors and advocacy groups say that MS-13 seems to have pioneered juvenile sex trafficking as gang business — even stepping away from traditional violence and turning to prostitution. MacBride said the endeavor is especially profitable because girls, unlike drugs, can be sold more than once, and the costs to recruit and prostitute them are minimal.
She was a month shy of her 17th birthday when the gang’s leader approached her outside a Tennessee hotel, engaging her in playful banter. But soon “Chyna,” as she would come to be known, was traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard with the gangster and his friends, having sex with strangers for cash.
At a trial in federal district court in Alexandria this month, prosecutors said Chyna was one of at least four teenagers sold as sex workers by the “Cold-blooded Cartel,” a Georgia-based gang that found Northern Virginia to be an especially lucrative territory to prostitute children. Their case, prosecutors say, is indicative of a disturbing phenomenon in the Washington area. More and more gangs are prostituting teens, finding it a bigger moneymaker than drugs or weapons.
“The profit margin, the income stream that comes from selling the bodies of children .?.?. is enormous,” said then-U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in an interview before he left the post this month. “Sort of like capitalization welcomes all comers to the marketplace, criminal activity is the same way.”