The founder of a prostitution ring that trafficked teenage girls from Georgia to Maryland was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison Friday — far short of the life term prosecutors had sought but still significant punishment for a man a judge called a “small-time pimp.”
U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said a life term for Edwin Barcus Jr., 27, would be “just excessive,” but he noted the seriousness of the crime and the lasting impact on the teenagers and women who had been prostituted.
“These women’s lives have been transformed dramatically, and today I’m going to transform yours,” Lee told Barcus during a hearing in federal court in Alexandria.
Barcus and a relative, Joshua Dumas, 21, pleaded guilty in March to engaging in a child-
exploitation enterprise — an offense that carries a minimum of 20 years in prison. Dumas on Friday was sentenced to 19 years and 11 months in prison, a term that essentially deducts the month he already has served.
In court Friday, Barcus apologized to the victims, the court and his family, saying of his 6-year-old son, “I robbed him from having a dad.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Frank had argued for a life sentence for Barcus, stressing that the ring’s leaders recruited teenagers from broken homes.
“These were very vulnerable victims,” Frank said.
In court documents, prosecutors accused Barcus and Dumas of prostituting at least seven girls and 23 women in at least seven states, including Georgia, Maryland and Virginia. They advertised their services on Web sites, then had the prostitutes meet clients at hotels, including the Homestead Studio Suites in Sterling, the Aloft hotel in Ashburn and the Washington Dulles Marriott Suites in Herndon.
“The venture was not simply a small-time, neighborhood operation by part-time pimps,” prosecutors wrote. “It was a well-managed, financially-lucrative, interstate enterprise that systematically relocated to maximize profits and evade detection by police.”
Benjamin Kent, Barcus’s attorney, pleaded for Lee to sentence Barcus to the minimum 20 years, saying his client came from a “very bad family” and “didn’t know how serious it was” to run such a ring. Barcus’s family members declined to comment after the hearing.
Fairfax County police were first tipped to the ring in December when undercover officers responded to an advertisement on backpage.com and set up a sting operation at the Hyatt House hotel in Herndon. In interviews with prostitutes and others, police and FBI agents soon learned that they had come across a sophisticated operation that was moving teenage prostitutes in several states, court records show.
Investigators found that Barcus and Dumas, both originally from Georgia, recruited teens with promises of romance and money. Barcus and Dumas regularly had sex with the girls, court records show. They plied the girls with drugs and alcohol and beat those who defied the rule that “all of the money earned by prostitutes belonged to the enterprise,” records show.
Two others have been charged with participating in the ring. Their cases are ongoing.
The group, which was affiliated with a branch of the Bloods gang known as the Cold-blooded Cartel, worked to avoid detection, court records show. Barcus and Dumas ordered the prostitutes to follow a strict set of guidelines — including patting down customers for recording devices and never discussing sex over the phone. They had a teenage boy hide in hotel room closets so he could jump out and pose as the young prostitutes’ boyfriend should the police show up.
The profits were substantial: According to court records, each prostitute could get as much as $500 a day from clients, and the ring avoided detection for more than five years. The group found Northern Virginia to be especially lucrative, court records show.
Barcus, who went by the nickname Boo, was the founder of the enterprise, and Dumas, who went by the nickname Hitman, was a manager, court records show. U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in a statement that their sentences “ensure that they can no longer hurt our daughters and sisters and serves as a clear warning to all those who contemplate engaging in this despicable crime.”