An Auburn man has been indicted for sex trafficking and forcing two young women into prostitution. And Bellevue police say a brave young victim gets the credit for helping bring the sex trafficker to justice.
Bellevue Police Lt. Lisa Patricelli says 33-year-old John Cyprian Junior initially plied two women with gifts, drugs, and promises of a better life.
"Cyprian actually groomed these young ladies by lulling them into a false sense of a relationship, being adored by him, being courted in a sense," Patricelli says.
The women called him "Daddy, but Cyprian allegedly became violent if they didn't agree to sell themselves for sex.
"Physical beatings, absolute control over their finances, in addition to consequences such as rape," she says.
Cyprian advertised the women on Backpage.com, and rented hotel rooms from Bellevue down to Portland to conduct their business. He would have continued if one victim hadn't found the courage to come forward.
Patricelli says it all started over a year ago, when a young female was arrested as part of a Bellevue PD prostitution sting.
The woman disclosed sexual assaults and other physical abuse, but was unwilling to pursue charges.
"I remember the interview that she just said 'I'm not ready, I want to be with him,'" Patricelli says.
Bellevue's vice unit continued to work with the woman, offering her free clothing donated by the community and a taxi ride. Patricelli says she began to feel supported and developed a trust with detectives.
"She really felt like they wanted to help her and that they really cared, and that was huge to her," she says.
A year after she was initially arrested in a sting operation, the woman decided to cooperate with Bellevue PD to take down Cyprian.
"She basically had come to the realization, after having her own child, she had been victimized and wanted to bring the perpetrator to justice."
Thanks to her information, detectives served search warrants on electronic devices, bank accounts, and hotels around the Seattle area.
A second victim subsequently agreed to help and detectives were able to build a case against Cyprian, all leading to the indictment.
"This case was absolutely not possible without the complete cooperation of these two young women who came forward," she says.
Patricelli says it is very rare for victims of sex trafficking to agree to work with police. They're stripped of all self-worth and unable to break free. They don't see any way out.
"We can only keep extending that hand until they take it and some may never take it, but we certainly don't give up," she says.
Detectives hope the indictment leads other victims to come forward, knowing Cyprian can't go after them.
Patricelli says Bellevue Police and law enforcement around King County are continuing stings and other operations to counter the tide of human trafficking.
"For every Cyprian, there are 100 more or 1,000 more like him. It's really an international epidemic."
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