A federal court in Virginia sentenced a leader of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, street gang to 50 years in prison for sex trafficking, local radio station WTOP reported Saturday.

Rances Ulises Amaya, 24, had been convicted in February of forcing girls as young as 14 into prostitution. The federal court in the city of Alexandria handed down the sentence on Friday.

Court testimony indicated that Amaya, a U.S. citizen who was born in the United States but spend much of his childhood in El Salvador, recruited his victims at middle schools, high schools and homeless shelters in Virginia.

According to trial documents, the gang leader raped his victims, threatened them and forced them into compliance by giving them drugs. He compelled them to have sex with as many as 10 customers per day, who paid between $30 and $120.

Amaya, who mainly recruited his victims in the Falls Church area, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Washington, denied the accusations and was defiant during the trial, making gang signs and directing obscene gestures to police in court.

Mara Salvatrucha was founded more than two decades ago in Los Angeles by Central American youths, most of them Salvadorans whose parents fled to the United States during their homeland's 1980-1992 civil war. EFE