After a lengthy investigation by authorities, two at-large suspects were indicted for allegedly operating a prostitution ring in Anchorage.

Troy Edward Williams, 47, and Heidi Ross, 35, are accused of using force to make victims engage in prostitution, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Law. Williams and Ross allegedly used tactics such as beating women and depriving them of “food and other necessities” if the victims failed to make enough money.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officials say vulnerable women of every race are at risk for being victimized by sex traffickers, who often lure victims into their control under false pretenses, then force them to participate in the prostitution industry.

“The pimps that are recruiting them are offering them something that they need, so it might be money it might be a place to stay, it might be some type of emotional support that they don’t get from their family,” said FBI spokesperson Staci Feger-Pellessier. “Maybe they come from a broken home, they aren’t in school, they might have drug or alcohol problems and it’s not just native, that goes across the board.”

State prosecutors say the women were forced to meet with clients up to 10 times a day, seven days a week. Court documents allege Williams and Ross took all of the money that was earned by the victims, and if they were reluctant to work, they would face severe and degrading punishments.

“In another instance, Ross is alleged to have forced women to take ice baths, be beaten, or hand write ‘I am willing to work’ a thousand times if they appeared reluctant to be prostituted,” according to charging documents.

Williams faces one count of first-degree sex trafficking, three counts of second-degree sex trafficking, and four counts of third-degree sex trafficking, with a suggested bail of $100,000 and requirement of a third party custodian, due to his prior criminal record. Based on the seriousness of the charges and prior criminal history, Williams faces a potential sentencing range of 20 to 35 years. He has eight prior felonies and misdemeanor convictions that include robbery, burglary, hindering prosecution and weapons offenses.

Ross is being charged with one count of first-degree sex trafficking, two counts of second-degree sex trafficking, and four counts of third-degree sex trafficking, with a recommended bail of $20,000 and third party custodian. Ross faces a presumptive sentencing range of at least 10 to 25 years, according to the DOL.

The investigation was conducted by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation’s Special Crimes Investigation Unit.

“This was a long running investigation, often times sex trafficking cases can take a significant amount of time to develop,” said Adam Alexander, Assistant Attorney General with the Office of Special Prosecutions. “There are often times complicated witness and victim issues because people who engage in wide running prostitution enterprises target the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Warrants have been issued for their arrest. Authorities ask people with information on the couple’s whereabouts, or alleged crimes, to contact the ABI’s Special Crimes Investigation Unit at 907-269-5611.

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