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Moreno Valley school board member guilty of pimping

Mike Rios is convicted on 23 felony counts, including pimping, pandering and insurance fraud. Prosecutors said the school board member ran a prostitution ring.

February 09, 2013|By Richard Winton and Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Mike Rios, 42, was convicted of nearly two dozen charges, including running a prostitution ring from his home.
Mike Rios, 42, was convicted of nearly two dozen charges, including running… (KTLA-TV )

A member of the Moreno Valley Unified School District board was convicted on nearly two dozen charges including pimping and pandering for running a prostitution ring from his home.

Mike Rios, 42, was immediately taken into custody after the trial in Riverside, according to the Riverside County district attorney's office. Young women testified that Rios ran a prostitution ring in 2011 and 2012 and solicited at least one young woman on the street using his school board business card.

Jurors on Friday convicted him on 23 of 26 felony charges, including a dozen counts of pimping, five counts of pandering and six counts of insurance fraud, according to the district attorney's office.

Jurors found him not guilty on one charge of rape, and they were hung on another count of rape and a pandering charge.

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

During the trial, a young woman testified 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 alleged Rios ran a prostitution ring out of his Moreno Valley home. "This is a case about greed," Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback told the jury. "This is a case about money. This is a case about power."

According to prosecutors, three adult women worked for Rios as prostitutes, and he tried to recruit another adult woman and two minors.

Rios offered one underage girl use of his Hummer if she would work for him as a prostitute, the district attorney's office said. Prosecutors alleged that he met another juvenile through an Internet advertisement she had placed for prostitution and offered her the use of a vehicle and his house if she worked for him.

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

Prosecutors said Rios recruited women, took provocative photos of them in his home and posted the photos in online advertisements. They accused him of establishing a cellphone number solely for the prostitution work, driving the women to various locations to have sex and splitting the money they earned.

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

What the women did besides stripping and dancing "wasn't necessarily known to Mr. Rios," Micallef said.

The district attorney's office also said Rios filed false insurance claims after a car accident.

Rios has been a member of the school board since 2010. The board could not remove Rios unless he was convicted. It had passed a resolution calling for Rios to resign, but he refused, board Vice President Tracey B. Vackar said.

Rios continued to go to school board meetings and even attended a board study session the week his trial began, Vackar said.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 8.

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