Two Carson City sisters, 12 and 14, were having trouble at home.
They sought solace in the arms of a 22-year-old Reno gang member, nicknamed “Joker,” who told them each he loved them, bought them food and drove them around town, they testified Wednesday.
The girls had sex with Hugo Sanchez, too, with the older girl prostituting herself in downtown Reno and giving Sanchez, her pimp, half of her earnings, she said. In return, he supplied her with methamphetamine and lies about his romantic feelings toward her, she said.
After Washoe District Judge Patrick Flanagan sentenced Sanchez, an illegal immigrant, to two life terms for the crimes, the younger girl cried.
“Hugo presented himself as caring for me, and able to save me from the life I was living,” the 12-year-old told Flanagan, adding she was highly involved in gangs. “He took care of me. He bought me food and took me places.
“He’s a bad person who preyed on my sister and I,” she said. “I loved him. I didn’t know who he was.”
Sanchez earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of lewdness with a minor, statutory sexual seduction, and pandering a child.
In handing out the two life terms, Flanagan ordered Sanchez would have to serve at least 22 years in prison before he is eligible for parole. Upon his prison release, he will be deported, his attorney Maizie Pusich said. She noted he will be paying for the crimes with his own youth, and will be missing out in the lives of his young children.
Deputy District Attorney Erica Jones said Sanchez played the sisters against each other and manipulated them to participate in activities far beyond what was appropriate for their ages.
“She is a little girl, and you waited outside the door to collect money,” Jones scolded Sanchez. “… you were making money off the back of a child.”
The 14-year-old, who attempted suicide following Sanchez’s arrest, told Flanagan that Sanchez got her addicted to meth. She said Sanchez introduced her to prostitution because he said it would help her earn money to give to her mother, who was financially struggling.
“I feel like you messed up my relationships with my mom, my sister and my friends,” the 14-year-old girl told Sanchez. “You got me hooked on meth. Everything you told me were lies. I have (meth) cravings every day.
“You threatened to hurt me if I didn’t give you money, or if I worked for someone else you said you’d hurt me,” the girl said, adding she is now in treatment to address her addiction and emotional trauma.
The girl said she felt like a fool, doesn’t trust men and suffers flashbacks and nightmares.
“You caused a lot of trauma in my life,” she said. “I cried every night hoping you were OK. You gave me rides, a place to sleep, and meth. I chose to be with you instead of my sister and my friends. I almost lost my family because of you.
“I feel like you are a lying, disrespectful pervert, and nasty fake (gangster) who thinks you’re hard, but are scared to face yourself and the world,” she said.
The girl said she’d be putting her life back together while Sanchez served his prison term. Her mother testified that Sanchez scarred each of them, and took away her daughters’ innocence.
“You made fake promises and gave false hope so you could get your way,” their mother told Flanagan. “What you put those girls through, most grown adults couldn’t handle.”
Flanagan said Sanchez’s crimes were despicable and had no excuse. They are “beyond reprehensible,” he said, adding that the victims were barely out of elementary school.
Jones said Sanchez’s youngest sister is 14, and he likely never fathomed she would be “pimped out on Craig’s List.”
“I only hope these girls recover and realize their self-worth, which is much more than what this man thought they were worth,” Jones said.
Sanchez told Flanagan he was sorry.
“It was not my intentions to hurt them,” he said. “I know I will have to pay for what I did. I’m not going to sit and lie. That’s not me.”
Court records show that Sanchez was living in an apartment on Neil Road with his sister and mother and working on a factory line when he was arrested. A court evaluation said he had no job skills and was at a moderate to high risk to commit more sex offenses.
The case was investigated by Reno police patrol officers, the Regional Gang Unit and the Street Enforcement Team. SET detectives had contacted the older girl on June 11 while she was walking in downtown Reno. They soon learned Sanchez was her pimp and sexual partner, court records show. Days earlier, she said Sanchez drove her to a Sparks motel where she later gave him $40 of the $80 she made for having sex with two men, authorities said.
The 14-year-old cooperated with detectives to lure Sanchez to them on the ruse she needed a ride so she could prostitute herself at another location, records show. Sanchez told police she owed him money after he lent her money to support her marijuana habit, authorities said. Investigators learned later about his sexual relationship with the 12-year-old girl.