VIENNA, Austria – Austrian police, working with their French and Czech counterparts, have uncovered an international prostitution ring, authorities said Wednesday.
The main suspect is a 44-year-old Austrian woman, identified only as Cornelia S., who was arrested on Nov. 15, the Federal Criminal Investigation Bureau said in a statement.
She is suspected of having recruited at least 150 young women, many of whom were beauty pageant contestants, to serve as prostitutes in a global escort service.
"The goal of the criminal organization was apparently to recruit young, educated and attractive girls but also beauty pageant participants as prostitutes for longer periods of time," according to the statement.
The first arrests were made in France on Aug. 16, followed by others in Austria and the Czech Republic on Nov. 15. Czech police also took further action earlier Wednesday, Austrian authorities said, without providing specifics.
On average, the women in question were between 20 and 25 years old, the Austria Press Agency reported. Two Venezuelan beauty pageant contestants told authorities they were forced into prostitution in France, where they thought they would be taking part in photo shoots, according to APA.