A case that became a tabloid spectacle when high-priced prostitutes testified in support of father-and-son pimps from Pennsylvania ended Monday with the pair being sentenced to three to nine years in prison.
Prosecutors had sought a much stiffer sentence for Vincent George Sr. and Vincent George Jr., who were convicted by a judge last month of money laundering and promoting prostitution but acquitted of more serious sex-trafficking charges.
Judge Ruth Pickholtz announced the sentence on Monday without elaboration, and the defendants showed no strong reaction. But Desiree Ellis, an admitted prostitute who was a defense witness, openly wept as she sat in the audience.
Before hearing the sentence, the jailed Vincent George Jr. apologized to Ellis and other women "for not being there for them" since his arrest last year and for "wasting the court's time." His father declined to speak, but prosecutors said that in pre-sentence interviews, both men refused to take responsibility for their crimes.
At trial, prosecutors alleged that George Sr., 56, and his son, 35, had used both threats of violence and false promises of riches to turn troubled women into virtual sex slaves. The defense argued their clients were exercising free will, calling them "happy hookers."
The prostitutes made as much as $500,000 a year for the Georges but got only a few dollars a night themselves and had no bank accounts or property, prosecutors said. Evidence show that the pimps laundered millions of dollars through music recording and car service businesses.
The Georges warned their prostitutes they would be beaten if they didn't bring in as much money as expected or were late to check in, according to wiretap conversations played at trial.
The women painted a different picture, saying they were treated to nice cars, vacations in Florida and affection from their pimps. Some lived together as "family" in a house in Allentown, Pa., about 90 miles from New York, and drove in to the city at night to turn tricks for $300, they said.
On the witness stand, the 24-year-old Ellis dismissed allegations that George Jr. abused her, calling him a "teddy bear." She left the courtroom on Monday without speaking to reporters.