West Miami-Dade

He pimped a minor at Santa's Enchanted Forest. He got slapped with federal prison

Richard Rodriguez Gray
Richard Rodriguez Gray Miami-Dade Corrections

A Miami pimp's reaction to a Santa's Enchanted Forest employee not paying for sex with a 16-year-old led cops to him and a prison sentence for sex trafficking.

Richard Rodriguez Gray got 15 years Thursday after pleading guilty to sex trafficking a minor. Despite a plethora of previous encounters with the criminal justice system and convictions on charges including cocaine possession with intent to distribute and felony battery, county jail defined Gray's previous confinement experience.

This started with the kind of Backpage.com ad pointed to when federal law enforcement and prosecutors shut down the site earlier this month and accused site founders and employees of facilitating prostitution.

But this also demonstrates why George Mason University criminology professor and human trafficking expert Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco told the Miami Herald, “Backpage was a honey pot for law enforcement. It was a centralized location where they could find ads and decide whether or not to initiate a sting."

According to Gray's admission in court documents, a Dec. 5 Backpage posting with photos he took advertised a 16-year-old girl as a 21-year-old offering adult companionship. A Santa's Enchanted Forest employee answered the ad.

The 16-year-old had done three previous prostitution "dates" arranged by Gray, whom she'd met over the summer, but wasn't into doing more. After Gray slapped her in the face, she submitted to his wishes and went to Santa's Enchanted Forest, just off the Bird Road exit of State Road 826.

"The three of them met in the area of Santa's Enchanted Forest," according to court documents. "After having sex with Minor Victim, the John told Minor Victim that he needed to leave to get the money to pay her. After the John failed to return with the money, Gray and Minor Victim began talking (to) other employees at Santa's Enchanted Forest, claiming that the John had raped the Minor Victim and owed them money."

After someone reported what's statutory rape under Florida law, law enforcement took the 16-year-old girl to a hospital for a rape examination. Talking with the girl, cops learned about the Backpage.com advertisement.

So they set up a sting. An undercover cop texted the number in the Backpage ad on Dec. 7. Gray answered and negotiated.

"Gray and the UC agreed that Minor Victim would have sex with the UC for one hour for approximately $250 and that for this price the UC could ejaculate on Minor Victim," court documents state.

They agreed to meet at Room 26 of the La Fuente Motel, 7470 SW Eighth St. at 1 a.m. Dec. 8. Gray and the girl arrived at the motel via Uber. Each left with police. Gray was under arrest.

Arien Pauls, 27, a human trafficking victim, is getting a tattoo removed that marked her as property, thanks to a new project started by United Way Fresno and Madera Counties. Pauls, who lives in Fresno, hopes the tattoo removal will help her cont

Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed information to this report.