Two Hungarians are guilty of luring young gay men to the United States to serve as sex slaves, a Miami-Dade jury decided late Wednesday.
Gabor Acs and Viktor Berki were convicted of human trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering in a case hailed as a first for Florida prosecutors because the victims were gay men forced to prostitute themselves for months in New York and Miami.
Jurors deliberated just four hours. The two men will be sentenced at a later date but face more than 200 years in prison, if given the maximum.
This week’s trial was the second for the three victims who testified. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit earlier won a conviction against a third man involved in the ring. In 2015, Andras Janos Vass was convicted at trial and sentenced to just over 11 years in prison.
Jurors this week weighed whether the three young men were true victims of a brutal sex ring — or willing participants who conned authorities in an attempt to avoid deportation back to Hungary, as defense lawyers claimed.
Investigators said Berki and Acs met two of the victims in Hungary through a website called GayRomeo.com. Another victim was “living with gypsies” as a prostitute, meeting Acs through Facebook.
The three men testified that in 2012, they were flown to New York City to work in what they believed was a legal business in the United States.
In New York and later Miami, the men, then in their early 20s, were forced to live in cramped conditions while performing sex acts around the clock, sometimes with johns, other times on live web cameras, prosecutors said. The three were given little food and threatened with violence if they left , the state told jurors.
“These victims were no match for these defendants. They were 20-year-olds who didn’t have enough education, who were desperate for money, who came over here without speaking the language, barely any U.S. money to their name,” prosecutor Brenda Mezick said in closing arguments.
She added later: “Human trafficking, modern-day slavery, is not tolerated for anyone, and all are protected.”
But defense attorneys blasted the three men as opportunists who turned on Berki and Acs simply to get visas to remain in the United States.
“What they said about the coercion never happened,” said Berki’s attorney, Ronald Manto. “They were doing what they wanted to do and they were doing it the way they wanted to.”