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Lawsuit alleges Virginia police officers covered up sex ring in exchange for sexual services

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Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

A lawsuit filed by civil rights attorney Victor Glasberg alleges that five Virginia police officers covered up a human trafficking ring.

The lawsuit claims that several high-ranking officers in Fairfax County, Virginia, protected a sex trafficking ring for several years in exchange for sex from the victims, according to Insider.

Glasberg represents a woman referred to in the suit as "Jane Doe," who came to the U.S. to work as an escort, going on dates with wealthy men. When the woman arrived in the U.S. in late 2010, she was forced to engage in commercial sex by the leader of the sex trafficking ring, Hazel Sanchez Cerdas, who took the woman's passport and threatened to harm her family in Costa Rica, the Associated Press reported. Sanchez Cerdas eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to running the prostitution ring.

The lawsuit asserts that at least five law enforcement officers engaged in acts to protect the human trafficking ring. The officers include two supervisory officers, a police captain, a police lieutenant, and a chief of police, according to Insider.

The suit names former Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler as a defendant, claiming he covered up for fellow cops when efforts by a Fairfax detective looked like they might reveal the officers' alleged crimes.

Glasberg did not originally have any names associated with the alleged crimes when he filed the lawsuit in October; however, he was able to obtain a court order to require that the police department identify the officers described by his client, according to the AP. Police gave Glasberg two names, Michael O. Barbazette and Jason J. Mardocco, neither of whom currently work for the department.

Repeated calls and emails by the AP attempting to reach out to Barbazette and Mardocco have gone unanswered, and neither of the former officers has a lawyer, the outlet said.

Glasberg told the AP in a phone interview that he made every effort to solve the issue without litigation because the case would be difficult on his client, but his attempt to solve the matter without the court was in vain.

"In the end they told me to go pound sand," Glasberg said.

Glasberg amended the lawsuit to include the allegations of former Fairfax County Detective William Woolf, who said he attempted to investigate the cover-up of the sex trafficking ring; however, his attempts to do so were squashed by his supervisor, according to the AP. Woolf claims he even got a call from the defendant, Police Chief Roessler, saying he needed to know that Woolf would "play ball" when Woolf attempted to investigate the police department.

Roessler has since resigned his position and has refused to take calls or answer emails; his phone has been disconnected, according to the AP.

Woolf said a police lieutenant interviewed him in 2016 amid his efforts to expose the cover-up. The lieutenant allegedly told Woolf in the interview, "If you keep your mouth shut and don't utter the words 'human trafficking' again, all this will disappear, everything will go away, and all the paperwork will disappear," according to Insider.

The lieutenant reportedly warned Woolf that if he continued his investigation of the Fairfax Police Department that he would "be branded a liar and his career at Fairfax County Police Department and in law enforcement would be over."

Woolf made the decision to resign from the Fairfax Police Department in 2017, according to Insider.

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