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      Three arraigned for Syracuse, Watertown, Ithaca sex trafficking ring

      Eric Oliver appears in court Tuesday morning.

      A Syracuse man and woman and a Cicero woman were arraigned Tuesday as part of a multi-county sex trafficking bust that was centered in the Syracuse area.

      30-year-old Eric Oliver of Syracuse, 19-year-old Tirra Pate of Syracuse, and 19-year-old Jessica Moro of Cicero were in Onondaga County Court to face charges in connection with the human trafficking ring, which officials say operated in Watertown, Ithaca, and other locations around the state.

      The State Attorney General's Office says the three "preyed on women as young as 15 years old, recruiting them to work as prostitutes; and in certain instances intimidating them with the use of physical force to compel them to commit acts of prostitution; and, in other instances, providing cocaine, heroin and the drug MDMA (known as "molly") to the prostitutes in order for them to continue working."

      "There are few crimes as heinous as forcing women into prostitution and transporting them against their will. Unfortunately, this case is emblematic of the horrors of human trafficking, which is an issue of international importance. We must redouble our efforts to protect people forced into a horrible life from which they feel they can't escape," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a news release.

      Officials say Oliver, the alleged leader of the ring, "was so brazen" that he made phone calls to Moro and Pate directing its operation from jail, even though he was warned that the calls could be recorded.

      Oliver faces charges of felony sex trafficking, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution, rape and misdemeanor conspiracy. Moro faces charges of promoting prostitution and conspiracy. Pate faces charges of sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and conspiracy.

      A conviction for sex trafficking could mean 10 to 25 years in state prison.