By PAUL YOUNG
Moreno Valley school board member Mike Rios was sentenced today to 14 years in prison for running a sex-for-money operation out of his home and filing fraudulent auto insurance claims.
Rios, 42, was convicted Feb. 8 of a dozen counts of pimping, five counts of pandering and six counts of insurance fraud.
He has a separate case pending in which he’s charged with two counts of attempted murder and illegal possession of a weapon, with sentence-enhancing gun use allegations, for allegedly shooting at two men who followed him home after a dispute at a Moreno Valley bar.
A trial-setting date in that case is set for April 12.
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mike Brusselback unsuccessfully argued for a minimum 26-year sentence for Rios.
The maximum allowable term under the law was 33 years.
“Given his position on the school board, this was a breach of the public’s trust of the highest order,” Brusselback said. “Mr. Rios will still not take responsibility for his actions. He is utterly lacking in remorse.”
Deputy Public Defender Michael Micallef sought a four-year term, arguing that his client’s lack of criminal history and the fact that none of the victims suffered violence or duress were overriding mitigating factors.
“These individuals were willing participants in a criminal enterprise,” Micallef told Superior Court Judge Gary Tranbarger.
Tranbarger imposed minimum prison terms for eight of the charges and ran nine terms concurrent to the balance.
Rios, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit with his hair freshly cropped, sat intently throughout the proceeding, whispering in his attorney’s ear several times.
The defendant will be eligible for parole in seven years, provided he’s not convicted in the other case.
Moreno Valley Unified School District Board of Education Chairman Cleveland Johnson told City News Service via email that the board will conduct removal proceedings against Rios during its meeting Tuesday.
Rios claimed during last month’s trial that he was interested only in running a striptease business — not an out-call sex service.
The prosecution said the illicit activity occurred mainly in 2011.
Rios admitted that he was familiar with the striptease business as far back as 2005 because his wife — now awaiting deportation for being a criminal alien — worked at Alameda Strip in Los Angeles and posted online ads for stripping at the time.
The defendant testified about his arrangement with a stripper named Valery, who lived in his home and had use of his cars in exchange for helping pay the bills.
He said he would drive her and two other women to and from strip acts, whether “in-call” or “out-call,” in part because he wasn’t making enough money to hire a security guard.
Valery, 20, testified that Rios “basically wanted to gather together some girls and sell them.”
“He said he needed to raise money because he wanted to be something bigger in the district,” she said. “He told me what I could do for men.”
Rios testified about two car wrecks — one in which a woman backed his white Mercedes-Benz into a post at a Walmart, and another in which he crashed his black Volkswagen Jetta while two women were in the car with him.
The defendant admitted lying to his insurance company and a sheriff’s investigator about the accidents.
Evidence on computers and mobile phones led to the sex-related charges.
The clues surfaced during an investigation into the Feb. 16, 2012, shooting outside Rios’ two-story home in the 27500 block of Palm Shadows Drive.
Jurors last month deadlocked on one count of sexual assault involving a woman identified only as Nancy, who testified that Rios raped her while she was drunk.
The jury acquitted him of an alleged sexual assault on a woman named Bianca. Both alleged incidents occurred in his bedroom.
The jury also was hung over one of the pandering charges, stemming from Rios’ alleged attempts to persuade a 16-year-old girl, Alicia, to work for him as a call girl.