By Michael Moore, Morgan Hill Times Editor
A Watsonville man was sentenced to 104 years in prison Tuesday after being convicted of pimping, trafficking and abusing a Gilroy woman over several years, according to authorities.
Andre William Furtado, 33, was convicted by a jury in Santa Clara County Superior Court in September. He was convicted of six felony counts, including human trafficking causing great bodily injury, kidnapping, pimping and pandering, domestic violence and failing to register as a sex offender, said Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, the lead prosecutor for the DA’s Human Exploitation Unit.
Authorities said Furtado trafficked and abused the young woman for several years, and continued to intimidate and control her while he was incarcerated awaiting his trial.
Furthermore, prosecutors and investigators presented evidence that Furtado had exploited at least four other young women dating back to 2006, Vanier said.
“His prior conduct involving exploitation of other victims was a big factor in the case and in his sentencing,” Vanier said.
Furtado was arrested by Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies in August 2019 in response to reports that he had threatened to harm the woman and her father, according to authorities. The sheriff’s office conducted a human trafficking investigation and gathered enough evidence to arrest Furtado.
The victim began a dating relationship with Furtado in 2014, investigators said. Shortly afterward, Furtado convinced the woman to turn to prostitution as a source of income, and showed her how to post advertisements soliciting prostitution online.
The victim began engaging in acts of prostitution under Furtado’s guidance and direction, authorities said. Within a month of working for Furtado, the suspect began to physically abuse her. Furtado would instruct the woman to engage in acts of prostitution under threats of violence and intimidation.
Furtado abused the woman again as the sheriff’s office was preparing to rescue her, according to authorities. The victim suffered scratches to her chest, neck, leg and foot, as well as bruising to her chest, foot and back due to Furtado’s physical abuse.
The woman initially cooperated with investigators, but Vanier said her “trauma bonds (with Furtado) were so severe” that she later declined to continue to help prosecute him. Vanier said Furtado continued to exploit and intimidate her after his 2019 arrest.
“Her loyalty to him remained steadfast throughout the case,” Vanier said.
Furtado had similarly victimized four other young women over the years, according to Vanier. Two of these victims were 17-year-old minors.
In those instances, Furtado contacted the young women on social media to initiate a dating relationship, Vanier said. He ultimately exploited their vulnerabilities and used violence and threats to coerce them into prostitution.
Furtado’s 104-year sentence is likely the longest sentence ever handed down for human trafficking in Santa Clara County, Vanier said.
“Because he was a prolific trafficker we wanted to make sure we pursued this with every resource we have,” Vanier said. “We’re very satisfied with the outcome and with the jury’s outcome in finding him guilty so he will never harm another person again.”
Human trafficking, though typically unseen to the casual observer, is a “big problem” in Santa Clara County, Vanier said. He estimates that hundreds of women are trafficked in and out of the county every day.