A Tacoma gang member has been arrested and charged with running a prostitution operation that used Backpage.com to advertise women and girls for sex, Pierce County prosecutors said Friday.
Marteze Clair, 27, pleaded not guilty in Pierce County Superior Court on Friday to charges including human trafficking and promoting prostitution, prosecutors said. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered Clair jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Deputy prosecutors wrote in court records that other charges might be added against Clair in the near future.
“The investigation in this case is far broader than what is represented in this affidavit,” deputy prosecutor Greg Greer wrote in a declaration of probable cause.
“So far, law enforcement has been able to determine the defendant has placed in excess of 200 Backpage.com ads advertising prostitution with numerous women depicted in the ads, some know to law enforcement and some not yet known.”
Authorities began investigating Clair after a 15-year-old girl told them in May that he’d recruited her to work as a prostitute, court records show.
The girl told authorities that Clair, who is know to be a member of a Tacoma street gang, posted a photo of her on Backpage.com and advertised her for sex.
“The defendant told (her) she would have to give him all the money she made after each date,” charging papers show.
The girl told investigators she later changed her mind about working for Clair and texted her mother asking for help, the records show.
Prosecutors allege Clair and accomplices plied the women and girls with drugs and threatened them with violence to keep them in line.
Erica Cromartie, who allegedly helped Clair recruit women and girls, train them and collect money from them, was arraigned Friday and ordered jailed in lieu of $750,000 bail.