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School board member convicted of pimping, running prostitution ring

February 8, 2013 |  6:47 pm

Mike RiosA Moreno Valley Unified school board member was found guilty of nearly two dozen charges of pimping and pandering for running a prostitute ring from his home.

Mike Rios, 42, was immediately taken into custody following a trial in Riverside. Young women testified that Rios ran a prostitution ring in 2011 and solicited women on the streets using his school board business card. He even asked a fellow trustee whether she needed a job.

Jurors on Friday convicted him of 23 of 26 felonies, including a dozen counts of pimping, six counts of insurance fraud and five counts of pandering. Jurors found him not guilty of one rape, hung on another count of rape and a pandering charge. 

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gary Tranbarger dismissed another nine counts of pandering before the case went to the jury.

During the trial, a young woman testified Rios approached her on the street with a school district business card in his hand and a job opportunity on his mind: He wanted her “to gather girls and sell them," she said.

The young woman, identified in court only as Valery, testified that she and others worked as prostitutes for Rios, a member of the Moreno Valley Unified School Board since 2010.

In addition to working as a prostitute for Rios, she said she helped recruit other young women for him.

"He told me we had to get the best-looking girls so we could get more money for them," Valery said.

Prosecutors allege Rios ran a prostitution ring out of his Moreno Valley home. Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback told the jury: "This is a case about greed. This is a case about money. This is a case about power."

It is alleged that three adult women worked for him as prostitutes and that he attempted to recruit another adult woman and two minors.

Rios offered one young underage girl use of his Hummer if she would work for him as a prostitute. Another juvenile, he met through an Internet advertisement she placed for prostitution. He again offered her use of a car and his house if she worked for him,

Rios was "constantly trying to recruit new, young talent," Brusselback told jurors.

Prosecutors say Rios recruited women, took provocative photos of them in his home and posted the photos in online advertisements. He allegedly established a cellphone number solely for the prostitution work, drove the women to various locations to have sex and split the money they earned.

Rios' attorney, Deputy Public Defender Michael J. Micallef, told jurors Rios ran a business involving women stripping, dancing and performing for money but that it "had nothing to do with sex."

The women were free to do whatever they wanted "to satisfy their greed," and what they did besides stripping and dancing "wasn't necessarily known to Mr. Rios," Micallef said.

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-- Richard Winton and Hailey Branson-Potts

Photo: Mike Rios. Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department

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