A leader in the MS-13 street gang was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison for preying on teenage girls and forcing them into prostitution throughout northern Virginia.
Prosecutors say Rances Ulices Amaya, 24, of Springfield was a "shot-caller'' in MS-13, a gang with roots in El Salvador. Amaya was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen, but spent much of his childhood in El Salvador.
A federal jury in Alexandria convicted Amaya in February of trafficking girls as young as 14 for sex. Amaya denied the allegations and was defiant throughout the case, extending a middle finger at an FBI agent at his initial appearance and throwing gang signs in open court after the jury reached its verdict.
Court testimony indicated Amaya raped the girls, threatened them and gave them drugs to keep them compliant.
Amaya "told these girls that he owned them and that he would hurt their loved ones if they didn't comply,'' said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, whose office prosecuted the case. "They were his sex slaves, and that slavery goes to the heart of the heinous crime of sex trafficking. These girls have traumatic scars that will last a lifetime and Mr. Amaya is justly going to spend the rest of his productive life paying for his crimes.''
The 50-year sentence imposed Friday was less than the life term sought by prosecutors but far longer than the term of less than 20 years requested by Amaya's attorney.
Amaya recruited girls as prostitutes from middle schools, high schools and homeless shelters in northern Virginia. The girls were required to have sex with as many as 10 customers a day, who paid $30 to $120, or more for sex acts deemed unusual. Amaya frequently set up shop in motels across the region, especially in the Falls Church area.
Amaya is the fourth MS-13 member convicted of juvenile sex trafficking at the Alexandria courthouse.