By Alex Distefano
29-year-old Paul Edward Bell, from Lynwood, was about to go on trial facing federal charges of sex trafficking. But instead, on January 14, he plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy, sex trafficking and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, according to local news reports. He now faces up to 30 years in Federal prison and will be formally sentenced on March 31, 2014. Bell is an alleged gang member and career criminal; and as a member of the LA street gang, the Rolling 60s Crips, he was part of a prostitution ring that targeted young girls between the ages of 15 and 18, from various Inland Empire area high schools last year, to work in motel rooms in Compton and other cities in Southern California.
According to the Los Angeles Times, The Temecula Patch website, and the Press Enterprise, Bell admitted in Federal court, that he used coercion, fraud and force to get his young female victims to work the streets as prostitutes, while he acted as their “pimp.” He would allegedly force them to “work” in hotel rooms on Long Beach Boulevard, in the city of Compton and other cities such as Rosemead. In August 2012, a Federal grand jury indicted eight people, including Bell, on sex trafficking charges, after the Inland Child Exploitation/Prostitution Task Force (including members from the FBI, Riverside police, San Bernardino police and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department) conducted investigations on the crime ring. Court records and news reports all show that the girls were kept against their will and physically, mentally and obviously sexually abused and in terrible living conditions.
Bell, who was the last of the eight to be charged in the underage prostitution ring, also admitted to physically beating on one of the young girls, after she refused his orders to have sex with strangers for money. According to U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bell admitted to hitting a girl, “for not performing as a prostitute and for acting up.”
The Temecula Patch website also reported that Bell had the help of several others in getting girls to become essentially sex slaves. One of the women, who was also charged and sentenced to two years in Federal prison, was 20-year-old Kimberly Alberti, from Riverside. Records show that she was, at a period of time, enrolled at a Riverside high school, and somehow initiated contact with the victims. According to court documents, four of these underage girls were under the direct control of Bell.
The Weekly was able to contact the Riverside County Sheriffs Department over the phone, but no one would go on the record regarding this story. No additional details on exactly how Alberti lured the underage girls from the unnamed IE area high schools, or if she was still actively enrolled at the high school was made available from the Riverside Sheriff’s Offices. It is also still unclear as to what specific high schools the victims were from, but because some are still minors, laws are in place to protect their identities
Prosecutors in this case, detail how the female victims were tricked and lured into working as prostitutes with promises of money, iPhones, free hairdos, free food and nail jobs. But of course, this was not the case. It was reported that Bell took part in a prostitution ring that kept seven underage girls from the IE area hostage. The girls were treated inhumanly, sexually abused and not allowed to keep any of the money.
“The defendants in this case lured minor victims from school with false promises of a glamorous lifestyle, only to sexually exploit and abuse them in furtherance of the gang, and for their own financial gain,” said Bill Lewis, assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, in a written statement on the case.
“January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and this announcement should send a message to those with similar intentions of targeting minors that the FBI and our task force partners are committed to investigating allegations of sex trafficking and sending them to prison,” the statement said.
“Sex trafficking is an abominable crime that condemns its victims to physical and psychological trauma, hardship and abuse,” said United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in another recent statement from the U.S. Office of Attorneys regarding this story. “Mr. Bell and his cohorts coldly and brutally victimized young women and juveniles, subjecting them to treatment that can only be described as inhumane. Bell exploited his victims for profit and now he will be held accountable and punished for his predatory conduct.”