One of three Hungarian nationals charged with luring young gay men to the U.S., then forcing them to work as “sex slaves” in New York and Miami for nearly 20 hours a day, was sentenced to a mere 11 years behind bars.
Andras Janos Vass, 26, faced 155 years in prison after a Miami-Dade jury convicted him of human trafficking and racketeering for his role in a sex-trafficking ring that enslaved three young victims.
It’s the first prison sentence in Florida for the human trafficking of gay men, the Miami Herald reported.
During a court hearing Tuesday, one 24-year-old victim described how his captors promised he’d make thousands of dollars as an escort. But his American dream of quick cash quickly turned into a nightmare.
The suspects allegedly raped him and kept him locked in bedrooms in two cities. He was forced into prostitution and made to perform sex acts on live web cameras for little to no pay—only extra food or cigarettes, the Herald reported.
Nearly two years in captivity left the victims with deep emotional wounds.
“It’s really hard for me to socialize, to mingle with people,” one victim testified through a Hungarian interpreter, according to the Herald. “I started drinking heavily to try and forget. I lost all my friends.”
Another victim read a statement in court revealing how he was treated like a “machine.”
“I was under their control, all day, all night,” the man said. “They used me like I was a machine. They sold me to strangers. I was not allowed to be tired. I was not allowed to be sad.”
Vass’s alleged co-conspirators, Gabor Acs, 32, and Viktor Berki, 30, a former policeman in Hungary, are awaiting trial.
Circuit Judge Richard Hersch sentenced Vass to just over 140 months in state prison—a lesser sentence apparently due in part to his own alleged victimhood.
Vass said he was victimized himself and forced to marry one of his tormenters before becoming a boss in the trafficking ring, the Herald reported. His attorney, Adam Goodman, said, “He wasn’t the one who committed the violence.”
“I got revved up with such people who are not law-abiding people,” Vass told the court, through an interpreter, according to NBC Miami.
The Herald also reported on Vass’s statements during the proceeding. “I know very well that I am culpable,” the convicted trafficker added. “After I do my time, I would like to start a new clean life and I’m asking for God’s help and I pray every day for forgiveness.”
Prosecutors say the trio ran a business called Never Sleep Inc., and lured victims, who did not speak English, through a website called GayRomeo.com. Another victim allegedly met Acs on Facebook while he was “living with gypsies” and working as a prostitute.
In 2012, the company allegedly flew the three victims—ages 20 to 22—to New York City for what they believed was a legal enterprise, the Herald reported.
The victims “believed they would only be in New York for a few months to make tens of thousands of dollars before returning to their homeland and their families,” said federal agent Melissa Pavlikowski in an arrest warrant.
Once the men arrived, they moved to Brooklyn into a cramped one-bedroom apartment, where up to eight people lived and worked, the Herald reported.
The captors seized their travel documents and identification, and used “financial manipulation to keep them in constant debt,” Pavlikowski wrote in the warrant.
Prosecutors say the Hungarian men pimped out their victims for $200 to $400 an hour on websites including RentBoy.com and PlanetRomeo.com. In online ads, the men were called “honey boy or hot boy,” WPLG Local 10 reported.
One Hungarian witness told authorities that Berki described Acs and Vass as his boyfriends. Berki reportedly told the witness his twisted plot raked in $40,000 a week, according to WPLG.
The sickos allegedly threatened to kill their victims—sometimes while bullying them with a samurai sword—if they tried to escape. According to prosecutors, Acs told the men he could “make all of them disappear; like they never even existed,” WPLG reported.
Berki often warned the men he was a cop in Hungary and had connections that could hurt their families if they refused to work, authorities said.
As they allegedly kept the young men captive, the brutes were apparently seeking more victims using social media and online job ads. In one Hungarian job site, Never Sleep Inc. was seeking a hairdresser to work in New York, according to WPLG.
“It’s OK if you are gay,” the posting reportedly said.
Sometime around August 2013, the ring moved to Miami, fearing one of their escorts had contacted New York authorities, according to WPLG.
There, the captors told the slaves they weren’t allowed to leave the house “because they could not speak English and were not familiar with the area,” according to the arrest warrant.
But two months after they arrived at the plush four-bedroom residence, a tipster alerted federal authorities to the victims’ plight, sparking an investigation that would ultimately end the sickening scheme, WPLG reported.
The alleged traffickers were arrested in October 2014 and held without bond, Miami-Dade jail records show. Authorities collared Acs in Miami and Berki and Vass in New York, cops said at the time.
Neighbors told NBC Miami they often saw luxury cars pull up to the residence day and night. They also noticed a sign on the front doors of the residence advertising $5 car washes—a front for the vehicles parking at the home, police said.
“It was all BMWs, Mercedes-Benz, you could tell that they were charging a pretty penny for whatever they were doing,” one neighbor told NBC Miami.