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Syracuse man pleads guilty to running prostitution ring from Jefferson County jail

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The Syracuse man who operated a prostitution ring from the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building will go to state prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to sex trafficking.

Eric J. Oliver, 31, formerly of 505 McBride St., Syracuse, pleaded guilty in Onondaga County Court to sex trafficking, a Class B felony, after admitting he ran the prostitution ring that preyed on girls as young as 15.

He is to be sentenced March 24, when he is expected to be sent to prison for six to 12 years.

Two women involved in the prostitution ring, Tirra Pate, 19, Syracuse, and Jessica Moro, 19, Cicero, also pleaded guilty to third-degree promoting prostitution, a Class D felony. Ms. Pate was sentenced to six months in jail and was released Tuesday for time served. Ms. Moro was sentenced to three months of weekends in jail. They both were denied youthful offender status. Both were 18 years old when the crimes took place.

The state attorney general’s office in Syracuse handled the case.

On Sept. 27, 2012, Mr. Oliver was arrested on charges of second-degree promoting prostitution, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a 15-year-old girl. While he was behind bars, Mr. Oliver was accused of using a phone at the jail to work with the two women to run a sex-trafficking ring in Syracuse. He made the phone calls even though he knew the conversations were being recorded, the attorney general’s office said last fall.

The three allegedly preyed on girls as young as 15, recruiting them to work as prostitutes and then forcing them to stay through intimidation and by giving them drugs, the attorney general’s office said last fall.

The three suspects allegedly provided cocaine, heroin and Ecstasy to the prostitutes to keep them working, prosecutors have said.

The multicounty investigation began in Watertown with a missing 15-year-old Syracuse girl who was brought here as part of the prostitution ring, state police said in October. The teen was tracked down here through advertising from a Web page escort service, state police said then.

At any given time, eight or nine women, some of whom were younger than 16, were working as hookers in the prostitution ring, state police said.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department recorded Mr. Oliver’s conversations and then provided a few of them to state police.

In 2012, the mother of a 15-year-old Syracuse girl contacted police because she believed her daughter was involved in prostitution. Mr. Oliver was arrested on Arsenal Street and accused of being a pimp in that case. The 15-year-old also was arrested on an Onondaga County Family Court warrant, on an unspecified charge, and was taken to Syracuse.

The attorney general’s office did not have any information Tuesday about the girl’s case or what has happened to her.

According to court documents, Mr. Oliver checked into the Rodeway Inn, 625 Arsenal St., on Sept. 25, 2012, accompanied by a woman. The next day, he rented a second room for another woman. He previously had rented a room there about two weeks earlier. He provided no identification, and signed in as Mikel Oliver, 914 N. Salina St., Syracuse.

Police were directed by the girl’s mother to the website www.backpage.com, where there was an escort service advertisement containing the teenager’s photo and phone number. Police, acting as a potential client, made contact with the girl and arranged a rendezvous for a half-hour engagement for $160. The client was instructed to go to Room 203 at the Rodeway Inn, according to court documents.

When police arrived at the location, they found the girl and Mr. Oliver walking on Arsenal Street.

Mr. Oliver originally had faced charges including two counts of sex trafficking, compelling prostitution, second- and third-degree promoting prostitution and third-degree rape, all felonies. He also was charged with fifth-degree conspiracy, a misdemeanor.

Ms. Moro had faced a felony charge of promoting prostitution and a charge of fifth-degree conspiracy.

Ms. Pate was originally charged with felony charges of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution and the misdemeanor conspiracy charge.

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