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October 22, 2014

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Crime:

Prospect of harsher sentences is on the horizon for Las Vegas pimps

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Leila Navidi

Ocean Fleming appears in court for sentencing, which was postponed, at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.

Sex Trafficking in Vegas

Boulder Highway is an area identified by Metro as a hotspot for prostitution and is frequently patrolled by officers. A woman is seen walking north on Boulder Highway north of Lamb Blvd. on Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Launch slideshow »

• Last of a two-part series

Ocean Fleming knows a thing or two about control. It’s how he made his living, pimping out at least four young women and raking in profits authorities say could have topped several million dollars.

That world crashed on Sept. 29, 2011, when Metro Police arrested Fleming — hailed as "O" on Las Vegas streets — after a violent episode involving a prostitute. In August, a Clark County jury convicted Fleming of multiple charges, including first-degree kidnapping, pandering, coercion with force and assault with use of a deadly weapon.

Now he sits in a Clark County Detention Center jail cell, his future beyond his control, awaiting sentencing by a judge later this month.

• • •

The Fleming case is one of two that has thrust sentencings of convicted pimps into the Las Vegas spotlight this year, ahead of proposed legislation that would create stiffer penalties for this class of criminals.

In July, a Clark County judge sentenced another convicted pimp, 48-year-old Raymond Sharpe, to 13 life terms in prison. One of those life sentences, for first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon, mandates he serve the term without the possibility of parole.

Detective Cathy Hui, who works in Metro’s vice section, said the cases send a strong warning to other active pimps: Pandering — forcing or persuading a person to engage in prostitution — and other related crimes, especially those involving violence, will not be tolerated.

If Sharpe and Fleming remained free, Hui said, "(Pimps) would think the laws weren’t strong enough, and they could get away with it."

For Fleming, prosecutors are seeking a life sentence with the possibility of parole on the first-degree kidnapping conviction, according to a sentencing memorandum.

Fleming is not stranger to the justice system. Years ago, he served a term in federal prison where the "defendant only learned to be a better criminal and make it tougher to catch/prosecute him by manipulating, brutalizing, and terrifying the victims that he chose to sell to ensure they would never seek police assistance or testify against him in court," state prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.

The cases are unique, however, because the stiff sentencing for Sharpe — and the possible similar outcome for Fleming — did not stem from the pandering charge alone, prosecutors said. A judge determined Sharpe was a habitual offender, thus enhancing his penalties.

Under current law, pandering an adult without the use of physical force or threats carries a prison sentence of one to four years, according to the Nevada Revised Statutes.

Even if a person is convicted of pandering a child and receives a 10-year prison sentence, the pimp likely will be released in three or four years, said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson.

"That’s not very much," he said. "I think there’s good reason for a push to increase the penalties."

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto agrees. Her office is drafting a bill that would crack down on defendants convicted of sex trafficking.

The bill, to be introduced during next year’s legislative session, would change the word "pandering" to "sex trafficking," thus aligning state law with federal statutes while increasing penalties, said Michon Martin, chief deputy attorney general for Nevada. The new sex-trafficking statute in Nevada would increase the felony categories for the crime, leading to stiffer penalties, she said.

For instance: Pandering an adult through physical force or threats — currently a category C felony punishable by one to five years in prison — would be considered a B felony, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

People convicted of pandering juveniles would face a minimum of 10 years in prison under the proposed law, Martin said.

"The longer they’re on the streets, the more access they have to victims," Martin said, referring to those convicted of sex trafficking. She added that many pimps convicted of pandering-related offenses under current law wind up receiving probation.

Martin said other provisions of the bill include:

• Establishing a civil cause of action so sex-trafficking victims could file lawsuits against their pimps

• Enhancing asset forfeiture capabilities of the court for those convicted of sex-trafficking crimes, with the proceeds going toward victims and victim services

• Requiring those convicted of sex trafficking to register on the state’s sex offender registry.

"We want to make sure the community knows who’s living where so they can make an informed decision about where they want to be and who has access to their children," she said, referring to the provision about the sex offender registry.

Martin expects the bill draft to be pre-filed later this month or in early December.

Wolfson, whose office prosecutes a couple hundred sex-trafficking-related cases each year, said he supported the proposed legislation.

"I would be willing to go up there to testify if called upon to provide our office’s position," he said.

• • •

The proposed legislation serves as another avenue to heighten the public’s awareness about sex trafficking, particularly the violence often surrounding it, authorities say.

"It’s brutally ugly," said Lt. Karen Hughes, who oversees Metro’s vice section.

A public act of violence is what ultimately led to Fleming’s demise more than a year ago. That’s when one of his prostitutes, a young woman named April, fled a Rhodes Ranch home and desperately flagged down a neighbor backing out of her driveway, according to court records.

April jumped into the woman’s car, but Fleming blocked them in the driveway — threatening to throw a large rock through the window until the neighbor unlocked the car door. Fleming then dragged the young woman away.

Two days later, Metro vice detectives found April at a Las Vegas home. After nearly 30 minutes of knocking, "The door opened just enough for (April) to be pushed outside. Once April was outside, the door immediately slammed shut," according to court records.

Detectives observed on April several recent injuries: a laceration on her forehead, a swollen right eye, a bruise on her left eye, multiple face scratches, reddening on her neck and an abrasion on her left shoulder.

April, however, was at first reluctant to speak with detectives — a scenario police say is all too common, based on a victim’s fear of her pimp.

Detectives’ investigation revealed an operation ruled by Fleming, who kept photos on his cell phone of him holding wads of cash.

One photograph showed the words "HOE DOE" spelled out on his bedroom floor, surrounded by hundred-dollar bills and several pairs of stiletto heels, according to court records.

Fleming provided the women with luxury vehicles, such as a Range Rover and Mercedes sedan, to drive, but he confiscated their earnings from prostitution, according to court records.

And if the women failed to make enough money, Fleming beat them. That’s how April wound up begging a neighbor to help her on Sept. 28, 2011: She tried to escape after coming home empty-handed one night.

A day later, on Sept. 29, 2011, police arrested Fleming, whom they considered one of the city’s most notorious pimps.

"He was a gangster; he was a big pimp," Hui said. "He was very, very, violent, and we know he has been violent for years."

Fleming’s sentencing, originally scheduled for Thursday, was postponed until Nov. 13.

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  1. These two clowns should have been put in prison years ago. "O-Dog" was operating at the escort service building on Industrial Road for a long time and was well known. He was on the radar of patrol officers long before September 2011.

    Sharpe was also arrested previously using an alternate name and in possession of credit cards in the false name.

    Both were very active on the Strip and well known to patrol officers...who did not receive the support of the Vice unit.

    Rhodes Ranch was known as a haven for pimps and prostitutes for a long time.

    Again, while it is nice to see Metro solicit some publicity for finally doing some work to stop this plague-it is far too little and far too late and this should have never been tolerated.

    If Detective Baughman was accurate in explaining that there are 'thousands' of pimps in Las Vegas then the prosecution of two of them (after they have made millions of dollars over at least a decade of pimping) then this isn't going to deter anyone.

    Where was the METRO/IRS "Team" that targets pimps and their profits? How could an original gangster like "O-Dog" have handled and hidden millions of dollars? FOLLOW THE MONEY of these two and the others that the street cops know have been allowed to operate on the Strip.

  2. As easy as it is to say, follow the money....it's much harder to say we have hard evidence proving someone's done something. And sometimes to get that hard evidence you have to wait so the person can be tried and found guilty. The problem with a lot of this is the victim in the situation is often the person being trafficked is under a type of control and power and unwilling to negate their abuser and pimp. It's a vicious cycle. But, how do we clean it up? I say legalize it. Just like the idea of legalizing marijuana, it's not that everyone does it but it could be better regulated if it were legal in an essence and taxable.

  3. They should execute pimps like this. If other pimps out there saw them get executed, I bet many would find other careers.

  4. While the common thread may appear to be prostitution it is in reality the trafficking of humans and their coercion into any activity, criminal or otherwise. Prostitution happens to resonate well in Nevada due to its legal presence in our culture. Elsewhere trafficking is a part of farm labor, of drug running, of laundry workers and of child care. Recent shifts in law enforcement and justice to identify women as victims and prosecute pimps and johns is a badly needed step as is particular attention to minors in the trade. Minors present an even more challenging situation when you consider that Las Vegas celebrates the commercialization of sex and, by definition, pimps its commerce and culture to the rest of the United States. This community and its leaders, after all, have sponsored and celebrated "Pimps and Hoes Ball". Look at your high schools at the number of students who mimic the culture of trafficking and prostitution.

  5. We spend a fortune in costs to our lives, our community, our culture, money for law enforcement, money for courts, money for prisons. Let's keep cutting the costs by keeping these convicts locked up. Now we need legislation to lock up repeat Johns. Serious financial fines for first time Johns and PUBLICIZE their arrests and convictions.

  6. "...pimping out at least four young women and raking in profits authorities say could have topped several million dollars."

    Valley -- you're actually buying what Metro speculates then passing on to us as a factual basis for your article. Shame on you for that.

    "They should execute pimps like this."

    Sinatra -- again, why exactly? So long as nobody is forced -- and I mean actually forced, not a willing woman making a deal to avoid a just prostitution conviction -- there are no victims, just excuses for law enforcement to expand its powers and budgets.

    "Recent shifts in law enforcement and justice to identify women as victims and prosecute pimps and johns is a badly needed step as is particular attention to minors in the trade."

    wharfrat -- what you suggest has nothing to do with justice. And your "minors" completely ignored Nevada's age of consent being 16.

    "Now we need legislation to lock up repeat Johns. Serious financial fines for first time Johns and PUBLICIZE their arrests and convictions."

    Roslenda -- all for what's largely a victimless "crime" involving the world's oldest profession. Your usually solid reasoning is slipping.

    "If you want to dramatize the evils of prostitution, corrupt a virgin, not a whore." -- Blake Edwards, director and screenwriter (1981)

  7. @KillerB - you're disgusting defending and downplaying the actions of scumbags like this. They should be executed because they add no value to society. Yes, it's extreme, but it's necessary and I mean every word of it. You think these people should be allowed to stay on the streets? I bet you support child molesters and rapists too. I say get rid of them.

  8. ". . .you're disgusting defending and downplaying the actions of scumbags like this. They should be executed because they add no value to society."

    Sinatra -- so I disgust you by 'defending and downplaying the actions of" some of my fellow citizens against the lynch mob ilk like you. Excellent!

    Just to be clear on your kind of thinking, you would line up and execute those who "add no value to society." You intend to include Romney's 47% with your targets?

    "...how little does the common herd know of the nature of right and truth." - Socrates in Plato's "Euthyphro" (399 B.C.E.?)

  9. @KillerB - don't try to extend this conversation beyond what it is. Pimps are scumbags and should be eradicated from the face of the earth. Now you're trying to make it political to try and hide you're support of scum like this. It must feel good for you to add value to our society.