Dec. 14, 2001 -- -- A Burlington, Vt., woman accused of luring a dozen girls and young women from Vermont to work as prostitutes in New York City pleaded not guilty today.
Beverly Holland, 39, was charged in an 11-count federal indictment filed Thursday that bears striking similarity to another Burlington-to-the-Bronx sex ring in which a 16-year-old Vermont girl was killed last January.
Thursday's indictment alleges that Holland used an apartment in Burlington to solicit and train girls and young women to work for her as prostitutes in the New York City borough of the Bronx, where she rented another apartment. She appeared in U.S. District Court in Burlington today and is being held without bail.
Holland — who allegedly went by the street name "Candy" — brought at least 12 women and girls, six of whom were between 15 and 17 years old, to the Bronx from April 2000 until early 2001, prosecutors say.
She would put them up by day in the apartment, and take them out to solicit sex at night, the indictment says. She allegedly often took the girls to an area near the Queensborough Bridge connecting Manhattan and Queens, where men cruised for prostitutes, then kept an eye on them as they worked the streets.
If the girls refused to prostitute themselves, according to the indictment, Holland would tell them the only way they could get a bus ticket back to Vermont was by earning money through sex..
Holland allegedly also had the girls give the men who paid them for sex business cards that read, "Candy's Girls — Entertainment for All Occasions," and included the telephone number of the Bronx apartment.
In one instance, Holland allegedly learned that the parents of one girl were looking for her, so she told the girl to call her mother and tell her she was staying with a friend in Rutland, Vt. Holland allegedly made the girl work the streets that night, then sent her home to her parents in the morning.
The case bears striking similarities to the death of Christal Jones, who was found smothered in rundown apartment on Zerega Avenue in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx.
Authorities said that Jones, a troubled girl with a history of running away, was lured from her relatively bucolic Vermont surroundings by a prostitution ring that may have enticed numerous other girls from the area into an involuntary life of sex for pay and drugs.
Prosecutors said a Bronx man, Jose Rodriguez, who was arrested in the Bronx on Dec. 11, 2000, and charged with promoting prostitution and statutory rape, was also involved in the ring. His alleged victims were two other Vermont teenagers.
As a result of the investigation into Jones' death, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and state lawmakers called for an inquiry into how the state handled runaway and troubled teenagers.
It appears that all the girls who were lured to New York were in the custody of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Service.
William Young, the commissioner of the department, told The Associated Press today he did not know if more than one prostitution ring had been working in Vermont. He said his agency had been working with police on the prostitution investigations.
"I think the nature of this business is nobody knows for sure the extent of this," he said.
Prosecutors have not linked Rodriguez and Holland. Neither is charged in Jones' slaying, which remains unsolved.