A Carson man pleaded not guilty Monday to the human trafficking of three teenage girls who had been reported missing from Long Beach and cities in two neighboring counties.

Mycal Brandon Ruff, 32, is charged, along with Dezere Renee Romero, 21, of San Bernardino, with three counts of human trafficking of a minor for a commercial sex act.

Ruff, who earlier posted $450,000 bail, was ordered to return to court Sept. 29, when a date for a preliminary hearing is expected to be set.

Romero pleaded not guilty Sept. 8 and is being held on $470,000 bail. She has a hearing scheduled Tuesday.

Ruff and Romero allegedly caused the three girls — ages 15 to 17 — to engage in commercial sex work to benefit the defendants between April and August, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The teens had been listed as missing persons from Long Beach, San Bernardino and Hemet, according to Long Beach police detectives, who started investigating the prostitution of a minor near the 100 block of 28th Street, near Veterans Park, on Aug. 13.

Detectives met with one of the teens and were given consent to search her phone, which led them to the two other juvenile trafficking victims, who were located by detectives on Aug. 14 and Aug. 26, police said.

“The victims relayed to detectives that they were forced to perform prostitution acts for a pimp named Brandon Ruff,” according to a Long Beach Police Department statement. “Ruff was aided by Dezere Romero, who helped manage the minors on his behalf.”

If convicted as charged, the two could each face up to 17 years and four months in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

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