Federal authorities have arrested and charged eight alleged members of a brutal sex trafficking ring that brings girls from Mexico and Latin America to the United States and forces them to be prostitutes.
The eight alleged traffickers were indicted in a federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, just days after officials in Mexico stormed Tenancingo, a.k.a. “Pimp City,” a town known as the heart of the international sex trafficking ring. They’re accused of charges that include sex trafficking, alien smuggling, interstate prostitution conspiracy, conspiracy to transport minors, and money laundering.
One of the eight, Severiano Martinez-Rojas, was on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Top 10 Most Wanted List for human trafficking. Martinez-Rojas and the seven others—Jovan Rendon-Reyes, Guillermina Rendon-Reyes, Francisco Rendon-Reyes, Jose Rendon-Garcia, Felix Rojas, and Odilon Martinez-Rojas—pleaded not guilty, court officials said.
“Members and associates of the enterprise used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause young women and minor girls from Mexico and Latin America to engage in prostitution in the United States,” according to the indictment unsealed today.
As Fusion’s Pimp City documentary reported last year, a vast international criminal organization brings women from Mexico to the U.S. in sex slavery, with the heart of the conspiracy in the Mexican town of Tenancingo. Martinez-Rojas operated from Tenancingo, according to ICE.
The indictment is sparse on details, but it alleges a nationwide conspiracy to move women and girls over borders and around the country to use them as prostitutes. According to the indictment, girls were imported to Queens, New York; Atlanta, Georgia; Jemison, Alabama, and then were transported to brothels in other states between December 2004 and June 2014.
Several women, at least one of whom was a minor, told grand jurors that the gang brought them into the U.S. and forced them to perform repeated sex acts.
Local news reports say 200 Mexican federal police and FBI agents stormed the town in recent days with helicopters and assault vehicles and arrested sex traffickers there. Five of the defendants—who operate under nicknames like “Satan” and “worm”—were arrested in Mexico, two in Queens, and one in West Virginia.
“In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to act decisively to hold traffickers accountable, protect vulnerable individuals, and assist survivors of this heinous crime,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
No lawyers for the accused had been entered in court records as of Friday afternoon.