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Witness: Women were 'sold' for $300

The sister of a man accused of being the ringleader of a Suffolk sex-slavery ring testified Tuesday that both she and her brother "sold" the waitresses at two bars they operated to male patrons for $300 each for a night of sex.

Jasmin Rivera, 33, of Medford, said in federal court in Central Islip that she was only an employee of her brother, Antonio Rivera, and that he actually owned the bars, or cantinas, and masterminded the ring.

Dressed in prison garb and speaking through a Spanish interpreter, Jasmin Rivera testified that her brother said to concentrate on recruiting women for "waitress" work at welfare offices "because they would be more needy and they would be more likely to take the job."

The potential recruits were told only that they would be getting high-paying jobs as waitresses, she said under questioning by federal prosecutor John Richmond.

When Richmond asked her, "was there any discussion about telling [the women] about prostitution?" Jasmin Rivera replied, "No, because in that case they wouldn't take it."

However, the women found out that they were expected to have sex with patrons after they were hired, she said.

Federal prosecutors say the ring exploited young undocumented immigrants from Central America who were forced to have sex with patrons under threat of reporting them to the authorities.

To keep the women in line, Jasmin Rivera testified that her brother told the women they were "illegals" and "on occasion . . . that he was going to get the police to get them deported if they didn't do what he told them to do . . . just to scare them, threaten them, intimidate them."

Jasmin Rivera said patrons had to pay $20 for a shot of tequila or vodka "to have access to [a waitress] . . . to sit down with her . . . to talk to her . . . to touch her." The patrons were expected to buy another drink or the waitress would leave, she said.

But for buying a bottle of alcohol for $300, a patron could have sex with a waitress for the evening, and for $300 in cash, a patron could take the waitress home after the bar closed, Jasmin Rivera said.

Defense attorneys for Antonio Rivera, 35, of Patchogue, and two other men charged in the case have suggested that Jasmin Rivera was actually the owner of the bars and ran the ring.

The two Riveras, along with their co-defendants, were initially indicted on charges of sex trafficking, forced labor and immigration violations. A conviction could bring a sentence of up to life in prison.

But Jasmin Rivera has pleaded guilty and has agreed, in return for a possible lighter sentence for herself, to cooperate with the government.

The two cantinas that Jasmin said her brother ran were the now-closed Sonidos de la Frontera in Lake Ronkonkoma and La Hija del Mariachi in Farmingville.

Jasmin Rivera's testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.

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