A Queens man was found guilty Monday of sex trafficking in a case in which he shuttled young women up and down the East Coast, beating them if they refused to engage in prostitution -- including at motels in Westchester County.
Nicholas Alvarez, 36, was found guilty Monday afternoon by a federal jury in White Plains after two days of deliberation. Alvarez -- who already has served a 10-year prison sentence for a separate rape case -- faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti.
Although the jury convicted him of sex trafficking, coercion and other charges, they acquitted him of kidnapping.
A traffic stop on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers by a Westchester County police officer on Feb. 4, 2011, led to the unraveling of the prostitution scheme. When police pulled Alvarez's van over for failing to have a rear license plate, three young women were found inside. The three showed a variety of IDs, which were fake, and police ended up arresting everyone in the van.
The women later told police horror stories of Alvarez threatening their family members and beatings they endured -- including being punched, slapped and hit with a baseball bat -- if they refused to cooperate when Alvarez pimped them out.
"This is a particularly heinous crime because it not only promoted prostitution in our district but prostitution by coercion," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said after Alvarez was charged. "Alvarez coerced women into servitude of the most degrading form and terrorized them when they tried to get free."
Alvarez's lawyer, Edward O'Callaghan, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Prosecutors said that when the women tried to get away from Alvarez, he struck back with vicious punishment, including holding one woman's head underwater.
At the same time, he took all the money they were paid by their patrons, according to prosecutors.
The ring operated for about a month, prosecutors said, with Alvarez trolling up and down the East Coast from New York to Virginia in search of clients and prostitutes to work for him. It was unclear how many women in total Alvarez forced into prostitution.
Briccetti did not set a sentencing date for Alvarez. He was sent back to Westchester County Jail in Valhalla, where he has been confined since his arrest.