WINSTON-SALEM, NC (The Winston-Salem Journal) – A Winston-Salem man was convicted Monday of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl and allowing other men to rape the girl in exchange for money numerous times over a two-year period, resulting in her getting pregnant and contracting a sexually-transmitted disease.
Armando Graciano, 43, pleaded guilty in Forsyth Superior Court to attempted rape of a child, human trafficking, sexual servitude and two counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.
Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court, calling Graciano’s actions “evil,” sentenced him to a minimum of 13 years and one month to 20 years and nine months in prison. Graciano had no prior felonies on his record before he pleaded guilty Monday.
Typically, the worse a defendant’s criminal record is, the longer the defendant’s sentence will likely be. As part of the plea arrangement, Hall consolidated the charges into one for sentencing.
In April, Graciano’s co-defendant, Flora Riano Gonzalez, 39, was convicted of sexual servitude, felony child abuse involving prostitution and felony child abuse involving sexual acts. She also had been charged with human trafficking, but a Forsyth County jury found her not guilty of that charge.
Gonzalez was accused of forcing the girl into prostitution and bringing her to Graciano, who managed a laundromat. She was sentenced to a maximum of 16 years and six months in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said in court Monday that Gonzalez was the one who reported the sexual abuse of the girl in January 2014. She gave Winston-Salem police detectives the names and numbers of all the men who had raped the girl for money.
Gonzalez drove the girl, who was a virgin at the time, to Graciano, who raped the girl in order to teach her how to sexually please men. Then he took her to an abandoned apartment, where other men raped the girl for money, Chavious said.
For two years, the girl was raped and sexually assaulted by men in exchange for money, she said. The girl became pregnant and also contracted chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease.
Winston-Salem police detectives became suspicious because Gonzalez had the names and numbers of men who had raped the girl and continued their investigation.
In November 2016, the girl told police that Gonzalez had forced her into prostitution.
The girl had gotten the names and numbers after Gonzalez and Graciano got into a dispute over money, Chavious said. Gonzalez decided to cut Graciano out of the human trafficking business and contact men who would have sex with the girl for money.
Gonzalez reported the sexual abuse to Winston-Salem police so that the girl could get an abortion, Chavious said. The girl did get an abortion and was treated for her sexually transmitted disease.
Ron Short, Graciano’s attorney, said that his client was only involved for a short period of time. That’s no excuse for his behavior, he added.
“It isn’t a pretty sight, but it’s a deal where he kind of got led into it,” he said.
Short also pointed out that Graciano has six children with a woman he has been with for 20 years and that this is the first time he has been charged with any felonies.
Chavious said the girl was just 12 when she was forced into prostitution, and she is still struggling to deal with the sexual abuse she suffered because of Graciano and Gonzalez.
“These actions were cruel; they were unconscionable and they were brutal,” she said.
The girl attended the hearing. She had testified during Gonzalez’s trial, but on Monday, she decided there was nothing left to say.