EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 7, 2014

Two nabbed in Salem prostitution sting

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Police arrested two Boston area men after finding them in a hotel room with a 15-year-old runaway, who allegedly was coerced into becoming a prostitute.

Andy Pena, 19, and Steven Garcia, 28, of Jamaica Plain were apprehended by Salem police Monday night following an investigation that also involved Boston police and federal authorities.

Officers responded to a room at La Quinta Inn & Suites on Keewaydin Drive about 10:15 p.m. and found the two men and the 15-year-old girl, who had been reported missing by Boston police.

The girl, who said she was 19, admitted to police she had sex with five to six clients a day and gave all the money to Pena, her boyfriend. Pena had approximately $500 to $600, which the girl said she earned as prostitute over a two-day period, police said.

Pena has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, reckless conduct with a deadly weapon, witness tampering and interfering with custody.

He was arraigned Tuesday in 10th Circuit Court. Judge Robert Stephen ordered Pena held on $150,000 cash bail. He was still in the Rockingham County jail last night

Stephen also ordered Pena to stay away from all New Hampshire hotels and motels, and have no contact with anyone under 18.

He cannot travel outside New Hampshire or Massachusetts, and was ordered not to have contact with the girl or Garcia, the judge said. Pena is scheduled to return to court Feb. 13 for a probable cause hearing.

Garcia told police Pena served as the girl’s pimp. He also admitted that Pena would pay him to drive the two around. The charges against Garcia were not available and there was not indication from authorities if the girl would be charged.

Salem police learned of the missing girl from Boston police, who notified them earlier that day she might be in Salem.

Detective Sgt. Donna Gavin of the Boston Police Department said the girl had been listed on the Internet as a female escort. Partially nude photos of the girl were found online.

Boston police tracked the girl through Facebook, leading officers to La Quinta, according to an affidavit by Salem police Detective Brendan Gleason. U.S. Department of Homeland Security representatives joined the investigation as well.

An undercover Homeland Security agent contacted the girl, who said she was 19, and arranged to meet her in the hotel room, the affidavit said.

Investigators knocked on the door several times, but no one answered. After hearing voices inside the room, investigators obtained a key to unlock the door. The teenage girl then opened the door and both men were placed in handcuffs.

Pena was charged with witness tampering because he yelled at the girl not to talk to police.

Police found pieces of a loaded gun in the parking lot, beneath the room’s broken window, the affidavit said.

A cell phone that was confiscated showed Garcia holding the gun that police found. Garcia told police he saw Pena throw the gun through the window into the parking lot.

Salem Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten declined to comment on his department’s role in the investigation.

“We worked with federal authorities on this; they’re running the case,” he said. “Any details or specifics should come from them.”