Couple arrested in Youngstown accused of violently sex trafficking women in six states
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has released more information about a couple arrested in Youngstown, saying they violently trafficked several women, forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Wednesday announced the indictment of 29-year-old Jonathan Ruiz, AKA “Salint”, and 27-year-old Charline Santiago, who were arrested in Youngstown on Tuesday.
According to the indictment, the two used violence to traffic women in their mid-20s, forcing them to engage in commercial sex acts in at least six states from February 2020 to February 2021.
Investigators say Ruiz and Santiago coerced the women by beating them, threatening them with a gun, withholding their personal identifying documents, and forcing them to take cocaine.
According to court documents, Ruiz posted online advertisements for the women and drove them to work at hotels and other locations across New York City, as well as in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Santiago often waited outside of hotels, accepting CashApp payments and cash. At one point, Ruiz allegedly moved multiple women to a house in Connecticut.
Authorities say Ruiz forced the women into prostitution by beating the women if they did not want to work, stashing money, attempting to escape, or falling asleep when he wanted victims to work.
These beatings – on at least one occasion done at the direction of SANTIAGO – frequently resulted in black eyes, bruising to multiple parts of a woman’s body, with lacerations and long-lasting scars say, prosecutors. RUIZ also owned a firearm, which he displayed to the women on at least one occasion.
Ruiz and Santiago allegedly withheld the women’s government identification cards, birth certificates, and social security cards to prevent them from leaving.
The two are also accused of fraudulently obtaining government benefits and loans using the names of their victims.
Emails and bank records indicate that Ruiz used these IDs to apply for and collect thousands of dollars in state and federal benefits that were intended for the women.
Investigators say Ruiz also made the women take cocaine while working to keep them awake and earn more money. If the women didn’t earn a specific amount each day, Ruiz would beat them or sometimes not allow them to eat.
Ruiz is also charged with Labor Trafficking for forcing one of the women to take nude photos, create sex videos, and speak with clients on the website OnlyFans.com.
Investigators say Ruiz created the online accounts without the women’s consent or knowledge, and they did not receive any of the proceeds for performing on OnlyFans, which according to that website has 150 million registered users.
The two allegedly tried to hide what they were doing by registering a corporation in Connecticut, issuing fraudulent pay stubs, and maintaining transaction records between themselves and prostitution clients.
“These horrific allegations detail an abhorrent sex trafficking scheme that preyed on vulnerable people so the ringleaders could turn a profit,” said District Attorney Bragg. “The Internet gives traffickers new ways to exploit people through economic, emotional, physical and psychological coercion.”
According to online records, Santiago paid $187,000 for a two-story home on Winston Avenue on Youngstown’s west side last August.
Prosecutors say Santiago and Ruiz had children together
Ruiz and Santiago are charged in New York State Supreme Court indictment with conspiracy, sex trafficking, and promoting prostitution.
The couple was booked into the Mahoning County jail, but have since been transferred to New York where they are being held.