Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Miami Beach man faces federal pimping charges

Miami Herald
Posted on Mon, Feb. 23, 2009

By EVAN S. BENN

Federal investigators charged a Miami Beach man with running an escort service that took advantage of immigrant women by forcing them to work as prostitutes.

Rafael ''Marco'' Bernabe-Caballero served as pimp of MiamiUltimate.com, flying women from Miami to hook up with johns in Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., according to a 20-page indictment unsealed last week.

It wasn't until the women were in their hotel rooms and johns were on the way that Bernabe-Caballero told them they had to perform sexual acts in exchange for cash, investigators said. The women were required to have sex with as many as 10 men a day.

''If women refused or resisted, Bernabe-Caballero made various threats to coerce their compliance, such as he would cause the women or their families to be harmed or killed or he would report the women to immigration officials'' if they were not citizens of the United States, the indictment notes.

After the sexual encounters, the women were required to wire 40 percent of the money they earned plus traveling expenses to Bernabe-Caballero. Investigators found wire transfers of $225 to $1,800 from various Michigan cities from March 2007 through November 2008.

Bernabe-Caballero, 34, remained without bond in Miami's Federal Detention Center Monday night and was scheduled for a 10 a.m. hearing Tuesday about extradition to Michigan, where the grand jury in the case had convened. Bernabe-Caballero's attorney, Rene A. Sotorrio, declined to comment about the case.

Also charged in the MiamiUltimate.com escort sting: Michael Porru, a Maryland man who worked in cahoots with Bernabe-Caballero by posting positive online reviews of MiamiUltimate's escorts in exchange for sex discounts, the indictment alleges.

Porru and Bernabe-Caballero also are accused of exchanging e-mails where they discussed starting a new escort service together in the Washington area.

Bernabe-Caballero, who has a listed address at 25th Street and Collins Drive, does not have a criminal record in Miami-Dade County, records show.

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