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Five convicted in LA sex trafficking ring

world Updated: Feb 13, 2009 09:26 IST

Four Guatemalans and one Mexican were convicted of trafficking women and forcing them into prostitution in Los Angeles, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

The five were found guilty on Wednesday of "conspiracy, sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and importation of aliens for purposes of prostitution" a statement said.

All five now face life imprisonment and four will serve at least 15 years behind bars under minimum sentencing rules.

Investigators said the group -- most of whom were members of the same extended family -- had targeted young uneducated girls from Central America.

"There were at least 10 victims," Justice Department spokeswoman, Laura Sweeney, told AFP.

Evidence presented during the case showed the girls had been threatened with rape, physical violence and witchcraft.

"The defendants ... (used) these victims' desire for a better life to lure them into a situation where they were deprived of their basic human rights," said US Attorney Thomas O'Brien.

"No one should be victimized in this way," he added.