AUSTIN EDITION - Resolution sought in prostitution case

By Tim Ruzek

An attorney for the Austin woman accused of prostituting her 14-year-old niece says an attempt is under way to resolve the matter.

Matthew Arthurs, the attorney for Rhonda Lee Garcia-Lopez, requested Thursday in court that the prostitution-related criminal file against Garcia-Lopez be tracked with a separate felony theft charge against her.

Attorneys are trying to resolve both cases, he told Mower District Judge Fred Wellmann.


Garcia-Lopez, 23, who is free on bail, appeared in court Thursday for a trial hearing on a felony theft charge. She is accused of stealing $4,184 of someone's income-tax refund in February or March.

The judge approved tacking the two files together and set Garcia-Lopez's next court appearance for Nov. 23, which is an omnibus hearing for the prostitution charges.

Garcia-Lopez, 1300 Second Ave. S.W., No. 2, is charged with 10 felony counts of soliciting, promoting and receiving profit from prostitution for allegedly prostituting her niece up to 40 times this summer.

Garcia-Lopez allegedly set up all of the sexual encounters with the girl at various men's residences in Austin, according to the criminal complaint. It also is claimed she received all of the money from the men each time and gave the girl money or minutes on her cell phone.

Police arrested 10 men for allegedly paying money for sex with the 14-year-old. All of them are under an immigration hold, were living in Austin and had multiple forms of false identification, according to the complaints.

Nine of the men have pleaded guilty to one felony count of engaging in prostitution with a minor younger than 16. They are awaiting to be sentenced after completing sex-offender evaluations. They likely will face stayed sentences and deportation, authorities have said.

The tenth defendant pleaded guilty to an amended charge of engaging in prostitution with a person 18 years old or older. He was sentenced to a one-year stayed sentence and 10 days of sentenced-to-serve only if he isn't deported or comes back to the United States within a year.

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