This comes today from the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles. Those convicted used a combination of threats — deception, rape, physical violence and witchcraft — to compel young Central American women to become prostitutes.
ANGELES – Five defendants, all members or associates of an extended
family, face potential life prison sentences after being found guilty
today of international sex trafficking for participating in a scheme
that lured young Central American women and girls into the Los Angeles
area and forced them into prostitution, announced Acting Assistant
Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division and U.S.
Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien for the Central District of California.
defendants, four Guatemalan nationals and one Mexican national, were
convicted of conspiracy; sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion;
and importation of aliens for purposes of prostitution. The jury in the
case was unable to reach unanimous verdicts on additional charges.
six-week trial, the government presented evidence that the defendants
targeted young, uneducated, impoverished undocumented women and girls
from Guatemala, and conspired to lure and smuggle them into the United
States, where they were put to work as prostitutes. All but one of the
victims were enticed with bogus promises of legitimate jobs. But after
arranging for the victims to be smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border,
the defendants used a combination of threats – deception, rape,
physical violence and witchcraft – to compel the victims to perform
acts of prostitution.
defendants intimidated and controlled their victims by threatening to
beat them and kill their loved ones in Guatemala if they tried to
escape. Some defendants also used witch doctors to threaten the girls
that a curse would be placed on them and their families if they tried
to escape. At least two of the defendants further restrained the
victims by locking them in at night and blocking windows and doors to
prevent their escape. The defendants also used manipulation of debts,
verbal abuse and psychological manipulation and control to reinforce
their control over the victims. The scheme also included strict
controls over the victims’ work schedules and ominous comments about
consequences that befell the families of other victims who attempted to
defendants collected the profits generated by the acts of prostitution
the victims were compelled to perform, and maintained control over the
prostitution proceeds, earning tens of thousands of dollars while the
victims received next to nothing.
defendants found guilty today are Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela; Mirna
Jeanneth Vasquez Valenzuela, aka Miriam, 27; Gabriel Mendez, the
Mexican national, 34; Maria de los Angeles Vicente, aka Angela, 29; and
Maribel Rodriquez Vasquez, 29. All of the defendants face statutory
maximum penalties of life in federal prison. Everyone with the
exception of Maribel Rodriguez Vasquez faces a mandatory minimum
sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
United States District Judge Margaret M. Morrow, who presided over the trial, will sentence the defendants later this year.
additional defendants – Flor Morales Sanchez, Pablo Bonifacio, Luis
Vicente Vasquez and Albertina Vasquez Valenzeula – previously pleaded
guilty to various offenses in connection with the defendants’ scheme.
defendants in this case trafficked in human beings, using these
victims’ desire for a better life to lure them into a situation where
they were deprived of their basic human rights,” said United States
Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “No one should be victimized in this way.”
Assistant Attorney General Loretta King stated: “Human traffickers like
these defendants target vulnerable victims, including minors, and
subject them to vicious conditions that will not be tolerated in this
country. Today’s convictions demonstrate the Department’s commitment to
exposing and vigorously prosecuting those who engage in such depraved
exploitation of their fellow human beings.”
Trafficking Prosecutions are a top priority of the Justice Department.
In Fiscal Year 2008, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’
Offices filed a record number of criminal civil rights cases, including
record numbers of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases.
Angeles, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), the
U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, the United
States Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department, along
with several community groups, comprise the Los Angeles Metropolitan
Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, whose mission is to improve
tactics for identifying and rescuing trafficking victims, provide
assistance to victims and prosecute those responsible for human
investigation of this sex trafficking ring, the largest of its kind in
Los Angeles to date, was initiated thanks to the courage of a witness
who reported the abuse, which included the prostitution of women and
children against their will,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant
Director In Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The FBI and our partners
on the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Human Trafficking are
hopeful that this case will bring awareness to the growing crisis
involving the trafficking of people, so that more citizens provide
information that leads to the rescue of victims and the prosecution of
Schoch, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Investigation in Los Angeles, stated:
“This verdict is particularly gratifying given the appalling abuse and
fear the unwitting victims in this case were forced to endure. While we
can’t erase the pain and suffering these young women experienced, by
aggressively investigating and prosecuting these cases, ICE and the
other members of the Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force are
sending a powerful warning about the consequences facing those
responsible for such schemes.”
was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and the U.S. Department of
Labor, Office of the Inspector General.
Trafficking Task Force in Los Angeles has established a toll-free
hotline – (800) 655-4095 – which victims and individuals with
information about victims are encouraged to call. Information may be
provided anonymously and will be kept confidential.