A Buffalo man forced girls as young as 14 to participate in a prostitution ring by using threats and intimidation, prosecutors said.
Derek L. Harris, 22, of Buffalo faces charges of sex trafficking using fear of injury or death, promoting prostitution with a victim under age 15 and criminal sexual act using force.
Prosecutor Ryan Haggerty said the victims, whose ages range from 14 to 19 years old, have given statements, as have “numerous patrons” of Harris’ alleged business.
Investigators also found “an incredible amount of evidence” on Harris’ cellphone, which was allegedly used to solicit customers and arrange meetings for customers, Ryan said.
After Harris pleaded not guilty to the charges, prosecutor Ryan Haggerty asked Judge Sheila A. DiTullio to raise Harris' current bail of $25,000, citing the “very serious, violent sexual felonies” for which Harris has been indicted.
Harris’ attorney, Louis Rosado, countered that he believed the current charges were too high for the alleged offenses.
Before making her decision on bail, the judge asked Haggerty what the prosecution’s proof was in the case, and he told her about the cellphone evidence.
DiTullio set bond at $150,000.
The case has been assigned to State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns. Harris is scheduled to return to court April 3.