Woman accused of forcing girls into prostitution to be arraigned in Oakland 

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A woman who is accused of joining her husband in coercing underage teenage girls into prostitution is due to be arraigned in federal court in Oakland on Thursday on a sex trafficking charge.

Helen Jean Singh, 22, and her husband, Mahendar Singh, 40, both of Sacramento, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Oakland on Dec. 1 on a charge of conspiring to force children under 18 to engage in commercial sex acts by means of force, fraud or coercion.

The two were arrested by South San Francisco police on Aug. 20 at a motel near San Francisco International Airport after police allegedly found a 19-year-old woman and two 16-year-old girls in a room registered to
Mahendar Singh.

A police spokesman said officers went to the motel after receiving a tip that a runaway girl had been seen near the property.

The grand jury indictment replaces a similar charge previously filed by prosecutors in a criminal complaint on Oct. 4.

Helen Singh, who is currently free on a $50,000 bond, will be arraigned on the indictment by U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler on Thursday morning.

Mahendar Singh, who is being held in custody without bail, was arraigned on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, the trial judge assigned to the case, in Oakland on Jan. 11 for the setting of future court dates.

The indictment alleges that the couple recruited juvenile girls to engage in prostitution by promising them money, drugs and a family-like environment.

It alleges that the Singhs controlled the girls "by providing drugs, using physical force and threats of physical force and fostering a climate of fear." 

The indictment also alleges that the couple regularly transported teenage girls between the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento County and used an Internet website to advertise their victims.

The sex trafficking charge carries a maximum possible penalty of life in prison, if the defendants are convicted.

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