A federal judge in Alexandria, Va. has imposed a stiff sentence on a member of the MS-13 gang on charges connected with raping and prostituting girls as young as 14 years old.
Rances Ulices Amaya, 24, was given a 50-year prison sentence.
In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Terwillinger called Amaya a "violent" and "sexually depraved" individual who acted as the gang's "enforcer."
At the trial, some of the girls testified that Amaya had raped them, then forced them to have sex with as many as ten strangers a day for money. Sometimes, the girls said, the sex occurred in the backs of vans; sometimes in inexpensive hotel rooms.
On some occasions, the girls said Amaya would allow other gang members to line up (as a "train") and also have sex with the teenage girls.
"Mr. Amaya said to these girls, 'I own you and if you don't do what I tell you to, I'm going to hurt your loved ones,'" U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride told reporters outside the courthouse. "That really goes to the essence of slavery and that's why human trafficking is such an awful, awful, horrific crime."
Amaya, who pleaded not guilty at his trial (but was found guilty by the jury) told the judge at sentencing, "I do not take responsibility for the [specific] charges," but he conceded he's done "a lot of bad things in [his] life" and he's "ashamed" of them.
Prosecutors asked for a life sentence. Judge Anthony Trenga didn't quite go that far, but noting Amaya's 12 previous convictions, handed down a 50-year sentence.
Friends of Amaya declined on-camera interviews, but complained off-camera that the 50-year sentence was "not fair."
In the federal prison system, there is no parole. Inmates can earn a limited amount of "good time" for near-perfect behavior.
Therefore, Amaya, who is now 24 years old, will likely be more than 70 years old before he is released from federal custody.