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38 indicted in prostitution ring in northern San Diego County

Thirty-eight people have been indicted in a prostitution ring that involved adult women and underage girls and was centered at a motel in Oceanside, federal authorities announced Monday.

The ring was organized by a street gang known as the Oceanside Crips and, since 2005, has used a Travelodge in Oceanside for purposes of prostitution, officials said. The ring was controlled from prison cells by gang members incarcerated on other charges.

Among those indicted were the owners and operators of the Travelodge, Vinod Patel, 60, and Hitesh Patel, 27. The motel is being seized by authorities.

Other low-cost motels in northern San Diego County were also used. Pimps "focused on vulnerable juvenile females who were runaways or from broken homes," according to the indictment.

Social networking websites including MySpace, Facebook and Twitter were used to lure girls into prostitution, officials said. The girls were then provided alcohol and drugs "to manipulate their loyalty and increase productivity."

The 38 are charged with racketeering. The charges were the result of an 18-month undercover investigation called Operation Vice Grip, said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.

The prostitution ring is "a form of modern-day slavery to which every available law enforcement resource will be applied," Duffy said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

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