A routine traffic stop by police in January led to a Dorchester man’s arrest on charges of human trafficking, three decades after he was convicted of raping two women at the Harvard Business School and a third woman in Jamaica Plain, authorities said.
Michael Leoney, 49, a Level 3 sex offender, pleaded not guilty in Dorchester Municipal Court on charges of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude and deriving support from a prostitute. Bail for Leoney, who did not come into the courtroom, was set at $75,000 cash.
Leoney’s sister, Ramone Burton was in court today. She said she believes her brother is falsely accused, possibly by a jealous girlfriend. She called him a “good person” who is “a productive member of society.’’
But Assistant Attorney General Deb Bercovitch said during Leoney’s arraignment that the investigation that led to the human trafficking charges began Jan. 12 when Leoney was stopped by police for a traffic infraction.
In the car was a woman passenger, whom police said appeared nervous. When they questioned her, she told them that she had been recruited into prostitution by Leoney who was also controlling her life, the prosecutors said.
The woman also told investigators on the first day Leoney required her to work as a prostitute, he took her to buy clothes and took photographs of her that he posted on websites that accept advertising from companies providing escort services, the prosecutor said.
The woman’s disclosure triggered an investigation by the Boston Police Human Trafficking Unit and State Police assigned to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, which is now prosecuting Leoney.
The ring, according to authorities, dispatched women to the homes or hotel rooms of “johns.’’
But in court today, Leoney’s defense attorney, Kim Giampietro, said there was no evidence from the prosecution that any woman—including the woman police met Jan. 12—were subjected to physical abuse.
Giampietro said the prosecution was relying on “mystery witnesses,’’ and that no cash was recovered from Leoney even though prosecutors allege that Leoney kept all of the money “johns” paid out.
But Coakley said in a statement that Leoney’s arrest “is part of our ongoing commitment to target human traffickers who exploit and abuse others for their own profit. ... We allege that this individual arranged for multiple women to provide sexual services and kept the profit from those arrangements.”
According to the Sex Offender Registry Board, Leoney was classified as a Level 3 sex offender based on three convictions in 1981 for two counts of aggravated rape and one count of rape. The convictions stemmed from separate attacks in 1980.
The Globe reported in 1980 that Leoney and an accomplice invaded a Harvard Business School dormitory in Allston and robbed two women and a man at knifepoint. Leoney then raped the women, authorities said at the time.
Separately, Leoney pulled a knife on a woman outside her apartment house on South Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain that same year and dragged her into an alley, where he robbed and raped her.
At the time of the crimes, Leoney was 17 years old. He was convicted in both incidents a year later, in 1981.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said in a statement that the joint investigation “illustrates that working with our law enforcement partners we will be relentless in our pursuit to bring these criminals to justice.”
Leoney was arrested Tuesday after authorities executed search warrants on Leoney’s car and his Washington Street home.
The case against Leoney is the third time Coakley’s office has prosecuted someone for human trafficking since the new laws took effect Feb. 19.