PHILIPSBURG–Management of Casa Blanca brothel in Oyster Pond has been convicted Tuesday of involvement in human trafficking, but has been acquitted of deprivation of liberty.
Manager Augusto T.M. Reiph (39) and his sister, assistant manager Jessica P. Reiph (45), were both sentenced to two years, one of which was suspended, on two years’ probation. Casa Blanca N.V., its manager and assistant manager will each have to pay a fine of NAf. 15,000 for non-payment of turnover and profit taxes. Jessica Reiph was also convicted of illegal firearm possession.
Four members of the family operating the king-size brothel were prosecuted for human trafficking, illegal restraint and possession of illegal firearms. They also had to answer to charges of a number of tax crimes to the amount of NAf. 430,000.
The Prosecutor’s Office considered the charges proven and demanded long prison sentences.
In calling for prison sentences ranging from four to eight years, the Prosecution found it legally and convincingly proven that a large number of women were exploited for the financial gain of the adult entertainment centre’s owners and managers.
The Prosecutor’s Office asked for eight years in jail for Manager Reiph and for seven years’ imprisonment for his sister. Both defendants also had to pay NAf. 200,000 in fines for tax crimes, or spend 365 days in jail, in case of non-compliance, if it were up to the Prosecution.
The Prosecutors called upon the Court to sentence owner of the Casa Blanca building Calma J. Priest (68) to five years and assistant manager and family member David J. Eustace (32) to four years in jail. Casa Blanca had to pay a fine of NAf. 30,000, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
Due to the severity of this case, the Prosecution demanded the immediate execution of prison sentences. The case against sixth suspect M.J.P. was postponed until further notice for medical reasons.
The defence lawyers pleaded for their clients’ acquittal, but the Court found human trafficking proven. According to the Court, Casa Blanca’s Manager and his sister financially exploited prostitutes, mainly from the Dominican Republic, for years.
Stricken by poverty, the women often saw no other option than engaging themselves in prostitution. The women had to do their job in Casa Blanca under very difficult circumstances, the Court said.
Two women had to sleep in one room, in which they also had to work. They paid an unreasonable amount of rent for the room, the Judge said. In addition, the women were held in check by a strict penalty system. According to the Court, the defendants abused the vulnerable position of the women employed in their establishment.
The Court, however, did not find deprivation of liberty proven, as it could not be ascertained that the women were kept in the brothel against their will. The Judge said that the women were free to leave the establishment.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office the women were kept behind lock and key when the brothel was closed, but the Judge believed the defendants, who said the women had access to the key of an outside door and could also use a swipe-card to leave the establishment.
The Court held Augusto Reiph’s cousin David Eustace for a co-perpetrator in this case, as he had played an important role in the business, albeit for a shorter period of time. He was sentenced to 342 days in jail.
The manager’s mother Calma Priest did not play a direct role in the exploitation of women, the Court reasoned, but she deliberately profited from the scheme. She was sentenced to imprisonment equal to her pre-trial detention of 44 days.
The Court said that the imposed prison sentences were justified due to the severity of the charges. The considerably higher demands by the Prosecutor’s Office were, however, not followed because the Court found lesser charges proven.
Besides, “Government is partly to be blamed for the continued existence of the abuse,” the Court stated. Government should have called Casa Blanca to order during inspections and had failed to point out the difficult situation in which the women employees had found themselves, the Judge said.