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School board member violated 'public trust' as pimp, D.A. says

March 9, 2013 | 11:39 am

Mike RiosA Moreno Valley school board member who was convicted of running a prostitution ring out of his home was sentenced Friday to 14 years in state prison in what a prosecutor described as a "breach of the public trust."

Cleveland Johnson, president of the Moreno Valley Unified School District board, called the sentencing of Mike Rios "a relief."

"There were a lot of things that Mr. Rios did that didn't make much sense," Johnson said Friday afternoon. "He really didn't care about us, or the district."

Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback said  Rios' actions and his total lack of remorse called for a stiff prison sentence. Rios continues to insist he was the victim of a political vendetta, which Brusselback said was evidence of a "warped sense of reality."

Superior Court Judge Gary Tranbarger brushed aside a request by Rios' defense attorney to limit the sentence to four years in prison, or probation. Rios, shackled and dressed in a bright orange jail outfit, showed little emotion as the judge read the sentence in a Riverside courtroom.

In February, a jury convicted Rios of 23 felony charges, including a dozen counts of pimping, five counts of pandering and six counts of insurance fraud.

During the trial, young women testified that Rios ran a prostitution ring in 2011 and 2012. One of the women told the jury that 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. In addition, 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," she said.

Prosecutors said that Rios ran a prostitution ring out of his Moreno Valley home, that he acted as a pimp for three adult female prostitutes and that he tried to recruit another adult woman and two minors. Rios recruited women, took provocative photos of them in his home and posted the photos in online ads, they said.

Deputy Public Defender Michael J. Micallef argued during the trial that Rios ran a business involving women stripping, dancing and performing for money but that it "had nothing to do with sex."

-- Hailey Branson Potts and Phil Willon

Photo: Mike Rios. Credit: Los Angeles Times