Mentally disabled women reportedly forced into prostitution to pay cousin's debt

Friday, July 4, 2008 | 5:51 p.m. CDT; updated 4:24 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- A mentally disabled woman was held against her will and forced into prostitution to pay off the debt of her cousin who had handed the woman over to her captors, federal documents allege.

The 18-year-old woman's sister rescued her Sunday, and two people were arrested and charged Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday.

Waquita "Goddess" Wallace, 33, and Richard Marquis Harper, 20, both of St. Louis, were charged in U.S. District Court with sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and sale into involuntary servitude. A woman known to authorities only as "April" also faces the same charges.

According to court documents made public Thursday, the mentally disabled woman, identified only as Jane Doe, moved in with her cousin in May or early June after giving birth to a child. An affidavit filed in court says Doe, of St. Louis, was raped at least twice by her cousin's boyfriend.

At some point, the cousin left Doe at Wallace's house, saying that Doe would pay off the cousin's $3,300 debt through prostitution and her food stamp and disability income, the affidavit alleges.

The document says Doe was forced to have sex with men for money. Also, the document says, Wallace offered Doe up on a phone chat line and at least two men from the chat line had sex with her.

According to the affidavit, Wallace took Doe's identification, wallet and clothes, and used her food stamp money to buy groceries. Wallace would not let Doe leave the house unless Wallace went along and told Doe that if she tried to leave, Wallace would kill her cousin, mother and grandmother, the affidavit says.

Once when they thought police were coming, Wallace and "April" tied Doe in a detached garage, the affidavit says. It also claims that when Doe said she wanted to leave, Wallace, Harper and April forced her head into a bathtub full of water.

The document also says that Wallace repeatedly beat Doe, first using her fists and later using blunt objects. The affidavit also says Wallace burned the woman with cigarettes and lighters, cut her with broken glass and branded her breasts with a knife heated with a lighter.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Marcus has asked that Wallace, Harper and "April" be held without bond. A detention hearing for Wallace and Harper is scheduled for Monday.

Attorneys for Harper and Wallace did not return messages left at their offices Friday.

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