A man who was at the center of a violent trafficking ring that sold women and girls for sex throughout Virginia has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Michael Maynes Jr., of Spring Lake, North Carolina, led a sex trafficking organization known as "Horse Block Pimpin."
Maynes prostituted 55 women and girls in Alexandria, Richmond and Charlottsville, according to prosecutors.
He convinced women to work for him by telling them he wanted a relationship with them or that they could keep some of the profits. Maynes also recruited women who were homeless or addicted to drugs, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors said Maynes and his accomplices used force, coercion and drugs to keep the women prostituting.
One victim said she was told if she wanted to see her baby again she had to continue to prostitute and send the proceeds to Maynes. She made as much as $1,000 a day.
"Her baby was being held for ransom," prosecutors said.
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Maynes became emotional in court Friday saying, "I've never in my life been violent toward women. What they blame me for, I did not do."
However, Judge Liam O'Grady said Maynes had total control over every victim and he destroyed their lives.
Maynes' defense lawyer said the 35-year sentence is excessive.
"He was devastated....He knew the sentencing guidelines were very high. He was hopeful and he will definitely proceed with an appeal," said attorney Thomas Walsh.
Maynes' girlfriend and mother of his two children, Brittany Walker, was also charged with sex trafficking. According to court documents, Maynes recruited Walker to post advertisements, collect money and take the women to various hotels.
She testified against him after receiving a plea deal and has been sentenced to 27 months.