Berkeley resident Vincent Rones, 51, received a sentence of 14 years and eight months in prison last week for pimping and making criminal threats, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.
Rones was arrested in April 2013 after police noted increased foot traffic in and out of a hotel room occupied by Rones and five young woman, two of whom admitted they were being pimped and were afraid of Rones, authorities said.
The sentence was doubled due to a prior strike conviction for kidnapping in 1999. He will not be eligible for release on parole until he has served 80 percent of his sentence.
The two women who admitted to being pimped said they met Rones through social media while living in Indiana. He recruited them and sent money and bus tickets to join him in Oakland, prosecutors said. According to the district attorney’s office, Rones forced the women to pose for provocative photos, which he placed on prostitution sites, and forced them to have sex with various individuals.
Rones’ attorney Amy Chapman said the two women knew they were being recruited into prostitution and all the prostitution was consensual.
She said Rones traveled with the women, managed and provided security for them and acted as a therapist. Chapman also said the women had different personal issues and emotional attachments to him in the group dynamic.
Chapman said the women were not held against their will and were free to come and go as they pleased. She said they would often communicate with friends and family back home and had active social media accounts. One of the women would often take a car to run errands, she said.
“Mr. Rones would not have wanted somebody that didn’t want to be there because it would have affected the group dynamics,” Chapman said.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Brockley saw it a different way. He said the two women were beaten by Rones and did not leave him out of fear he would hurt them and their families. Brockley also said Rones monitored their social media accounts and had spyware installed on his computer.
“The women came from disadvantaged backgrounds with little education,” he said. “Rones preyed on them through social media after learning about their families and backgrounds.”
Although Brockley lost contact with one of the women, he said the other has made significant progress in improving her life after the arrest of Rones. She has moved out of the state and is now married with a home and a car, he said.