A Moreno Valley School Board member accused of running a sex-for-money operation told jurors Wednesday that he tried to start an exotic dancing business to make up for lost wages after his wife was detained for deportation.
Mike Rios, who remains a school board member, pleaded not guilty to 35 felony counts, including forcible rape, pimping, pandering and insurance fraud, stemming from alleged criminal activity in 2011 and 2012. During testimony that was interrupted by Rios' sobs, he said his wife was in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the time he was searching for other sources of income.
Prosecutors asked Rios why he wanted to run a "stripping business" out of his family's home.
"What's wrong with that? It's not like they're walking around in their underwears," Rios, who took the stand in his own defense, responded.
Rios went on to explain how he made an estimated $800 through the service, but ended up spending it on hotels for the women.
He testified that he drove the women to and from appointments, but that the business "fizzled out" after about one month. He denied having sex with a woman who testified earlier that she worked as a prostitute for Rios in 2011.
The woman told the court she quit after he sexually assaulted her in his bedroom.
The investigation began in February 2012 with a shooting outside Rios' home on Palm Shadows Drive. He is charged separately with attempting to shoot two men over a dispute than began in a Moreno Valley bar.
The sex-for-money charges were filed in April.
Rios, 42, was the final witness. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday.