OAKLAND -- A Sacramento woman was sentenced to nine years in prison for running a Bay Area sex ring that saw her and her husband use fear, drugs and money to control teenage prostitutes, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.

Helen Jean Singh, 22, and Mike Singh, both of Sacramento enticed the four teens into prostitution by promising a "family-like" environment but eventually the girls were frightened or manipulated into continuing to sell themselves, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said.

Singh pleaded guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy earlier this year and U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton handed down the sentence Wednesday, Haag added.

Police arrested the Singhs at a South San Francisco hotel in August 2011 after getting a tip about a possible teenage runaway. Police searched room No. 775, where they found $220 in cash stuffed into a cigarette pack, several used condoms in a trash can, "an usually large amount of lingerie," and an overwhelming scent of perfume.

Investigation later showed the girls were promised a 50 percent share of the $100 an hour fee the Singhs charged customers for encounters with the young women. The girls were also promised food, shelter and a supply of drugs, including methamphetamine. However, as time went on, the teens received none of the money, were beaten and were forced to continue to have sex with clients, prosecutors said.


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The couple allegedly used internet postings and cell phones to set up encounters with customers in hotels around the Bay Area.

Mike Singh pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in January and in April was sentenced to nine years behind bars, Haag said.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.