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San Diego Man Sentenced for Child Sex Trafficking

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, along with officers assigned to the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF), arrested a Ponce, Puerto Rico resident Tuesday, February 12, 2013, for allegedly transporting minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual conduct.

Nelson Santiago-Colon, 47, pastor of the Peniel Christian Church located in Santa Isabel, was arrested at his place of residence in Ponce after a referral from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice to HSI revealed the violation of federal child exploitation statutes by Santiago-Colon.

“Anyone who targets children for sexual exploitation should also consider themselves a target by HSI and by our law enforcement partners,” said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “HSI aggressively uses its investigative authorities to protect our communities from those who seek to sexually exploit children for their perverse gratification. We have an obligation to protect those most vulnerable in our society who cannot protect themselves.”

On Jan. 18, Puerto Rico Police Department officers arrested Santiago-Colon on charges of sexual aggression of minors, lascivious acts and child abuse. He was granted bail in the amount of $110,000 by Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge Sheila Diaz. Shortly after he posted bail, Puerto Rico Department of Justice officials contacted HSI to charge Santiago-Colon under federal law. HSI special agents immediately began interviewing victims from the local case, which resulted in the arrest of Santiago-Colon on federal charges of transporting three minor males to his home where he allegedly sexually assaulted and committed lewd and lascivious acts on them.

According to the three-count complaint, Santiago-Colon is charged with transportation of minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. In counts one and two, Santiago-Colon is charged with having transported a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old boy from the Peniel Christian Church to his home for the purpose of committing sexual assault and lewd acts with the minors. Count three charges him with transporting a 14-year-old minor from the minor’s home to his home with the intent to perform lewd acts on the minor.

Santiago-Colon was transferred to the MetropolitanDetentionCenter in Guaynabo to await the outcome of his case. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a possible maximum statutory penalty of life in prison.

In response to the need for an island-wide approach to fighting the escalation of predatory crimes against children, HSI San Juan partnered with members of local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as local and state government officials and community leaders, to form PRCACTF in June 2011.

Through PRCACTF, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the NationalCenter for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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California Child Predator Charged with Online Child Enticement and Exploitation

A Fresno man made his initial appearance in federal court the afternoon of Thursday, February 14, 2013, to face charges he engaged in sexually explicit chats online with a 13-year-old boy and used the Internet to entice the boy into meeting him for sexual encounters.

David Hume, 36, was arrested Tuesday, February 12, 2013, by investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office on charges detailed in a criminal complaint. In addition to online enticement of a minor, Hume is also charged with distribution of child pornography. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

The charges stem from a probe by the Central California Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, including HSI, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and the Tulare Police Department. The probe allegedly revealed Hume engaged in sexually explicit online chats with the victim. The chats led to Hume’s meeting with the boy on two separate occasions last month where he sexually abused the child. According to the criminal complaint, the investigation also revealed Hume possessed numerous images and videos of child pornography, which he distributed over a peer-to-peer file sharing network.

“Those who sexually exploit children online falsely believe the Internet affords them anonymity and that their crimes will go undetected,” said Mike Prado, resident agent in charge of HSI Fresno. “As this case makes clear, not only does cyberspace not shield them from detection, the technology has given law enforcement new ways to investigate these cases.”

A forensic analysis of computers seized from Hume’s home allegedly revealed the defendant had numerous online chats involving the sexual abuse of minors as well as online conversations with the 13-year-old victim. On Feb. 12, the victim informed investigators he had been sexually abused twice by Hume. That night, investigators took Hume into custody.

Investigators are concerned there may be other unidentified victims in this case. They are asking for anyone who may have information related to the defendant or the case to contact the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office at 559-600-8144. The public may also report suspicious activity by calling ICE’s toll-free hotline 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by using the agency’s online tip form.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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El Salvador National Pleads Guilty to Recruiting Teens for Sex Trafficking Ring

An illegal alien from El Salvador pleaded guilty Wednesday February 13, 2013, to recruiting a 15-year-old runaway to engage in commercial sex for a prostitution ring.

Formerly from Adelphi, Md., Yanira del Carmen Guerrero Andrade, aka Yadira or Litsy, 28, was apprehended following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. field office with assistance from the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.

Guerrero Andrade pled guilty to child sex trafficking, which carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for May 10, 2013.

“HSI will continue to thwart those who prey on teenage victims for their own greed,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres. “We cannot allow anyone to traffic vulnerable victims and think they can get away with this. We will continue to diligently work with our law enforcement partners to combat sex trafficking in our community.”

“Ms. Guerrero Andrade’s actions show just how vile the world of human trafficking is – right here in our community,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “She lured a 15-year-old girl into her boyfriend’s commercial sex trade business so she could sell her off time and time again for profit. Many people think human trafficking is a man’s business – but the recruiters are often women, and we hold them accountable.”

According a statement of facts filed with her plea agreement, Guerrero Andrade admitted that she met a 15-year-old runaway in January 2009 and encouraged her to work as a prostitute for an organization run by Julio Cesar Revolorio Ramos, whom Guerrero Andrade was dating. After the victim spoke to Revolorio Ramos by phone, Guerrero Andrade introduced the victim to him and the two of them transported the victim from Maryland into Virginia to work as a prostitute, even though they knew the victim was under 18 years of age.

On the first day the victim was trafficked, she had sexual relations with approximately 17 customers, and on the third day she had sexual relations with 25 customers. In June 2010, Guerrero Andrade invited the victim to live in the basement of the home she shared with Revolorio Ramos. One week after moving in to the home, Revolorio Ramos again prostituted the victim, and the victim paid rent with the money she received from prostitution.

Guerrero Andrade also admitted that in 2010, she provided the victim with contact information for other prostitution organizations so the victim could work for those organizations during the weeks she was not being prostituted by Revolorio Ramos.

On Feb. 8, 2013, Revolorio Ramos was sentenced to 188 months in prison for his role in sex trafficking a child.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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3 Florida Brothers Guilty of Marriage and Immigration Fraud

A federal jury found three Jacksonville brothers guilty of marriage fraud charges Thursday, February 7, 2013. The guilty verdicts resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Air Marshal Service, the FBI, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Mowafak “Mike” Shahla, 43, Antoun “Tony” Chahla, 42, and Fadi Chahla, 40, were found guilty of participating in a conspiracy to enter into marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws, making false statements to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and unlawfully attempting to procure naturalization and citizenship.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, the brothers are Syrian citizens who recruited three U.S. citizens – two sisters and their sister-in-law – to enter into fraudulent marriages. The men entered into the marriages to become legal permanent residents, and then, citizens of the United States.

Shahla, Antoun Chahla and Fadi Chahla entered into the fraudulent marriages in 1999, 2002 and 2005, respectively. They made cash payments to the women for participating in the fraudulent marriages. Some of those payments were made on a monthly basis. During part of the conspiracy, payments totaling $3,000 were made to one of the women in exchange for her traveling to Syria on two occasions. The first trip to Syria was to become engaged to Fadi Chahla, and the second trip was to enter into a fraudulent marriage with him.

Shahla, Antoun Chahla and Fadi Chahla each made false statements in their applications for legal immigration status and citizenship. They also lied to immigration officers when they were interviewed about their fraudulent marriages. Prior to the interviews with the immigration officer, the couples met to discuss the details of their purported marriages and rehearse the stories they would tell the immigration officer.

As a result of their fraudulent actions, Shahla, Antoun Chahla and Fadi Chahla became legal permanent residents of the United States, but the conspiracy was discovered by law enforcement authorities before their citizenship applications were processed. They are now subject to deportation based on their convictions.

The three women involved in the fraudulent marriages previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. They agreed to cooperate with the investigation and were each sentenced to two years of probation.

Each brother faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge and up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the other offenses. The sentencing hearings have not been scheduled.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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New York Woman Sentenced for International Parental Child Abduction

An upstate New York woman, who was convicted after a jury trial of international parental kidnapping and making a false statement on a passport application, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jacqueline Bontzolakes, 38, of Tonawanda, N.Y., took two minor children out of the country in violation of the custody arrangements set by the Erie County (N.Y.) Family Court and without the knowledge or permission of their fathers.

The defendant also concealed the identity of the father of one of the minor children in applying for a passport for that child. Through the efforts of HSI special agents and officials of U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Bontzolakes was returned to the U.S. and arrested in Miami March 24, 2010. The two minor children were located and reunited with their fathers.

“Today’s sentence is just punishment for a person who kidnapped her own children and kept them away from the lawful, court designated guardian, in this case their fathers,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr., Western District of New York. “Such cases are sensitive in nature but must be handled by the proper judicial authorities when, as in this case, circumstances warrant.”

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Fauzia K. Mattingly and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Opanga, Western District of New York, prosecuted this case on behalf of the U.S. government.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Illegal Mexican National Sentenced for Sex Trafficking

An illegal alien from Mexico who lived in Riverdale, Md., was sentenced Friday, January 4, 2013, to 36 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for transporting more than 100 women from other states to engage in commercial sex in Virginia.

Marcos Sanchez Hernandez, also known as “Marquito,” 37, pleaded guilty Oct. 15, 2012, to conspiracy to transport women to engage in prostitution.

“For years, Sanchez Hernandez ran a sex trafficking ring that reached into our communities here in Virginia and out to our neighboring states,” said Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Today, he learned what we hope other sex traffickers are rapidly discovering – sex trafficking is not a viable business enterprise in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and those who engage in it will face lengthy prison time when caught.”

“Sanchez Hernandez profited for years from his multi-state sex trafficking ring,” said John P. Torres, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. “HSI DC does not tolerate the exploitation of others and is committed to bringing to justice those who are involved in the sex trafficking industry.”

According to court records, from 2005 through July 2012 Sanchez Hernandez was part of a network that transported women to engage in commercial sex acts in Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and various locations in Virginia, including Fairfax County, Prince William County, Alexandria, Arlington, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. He admitted to transporting more than 100 women and selling their bodies in 10 to 15-minute increments for $30.

In 2010, Sanchez Hernandez took over leadership of the enterprise and trained an employee on where to drive the prostitutes, how to collect proceeds, and how to avoid law enforcement. He advertised the prostitution business by handing out business cards at Spanish restaurants, check cashing stores, construction sites and day laborer sites. Eventually, the proceeds of the operation were sent to the enterprise’s former leader in Mexico.

This case was investigated by the HSI Transnational Gang Unit, which participates in the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Virginia Assistant Attorney General and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc J. Birnbaum, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Frank are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes. From FY2011 to the present, 46 defendants have been prosecuted in 27 cases in the Eastern District of Virginia for human trafficking and trafficking-related conduct involving at least 32 victims.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Mexican National Sentenced for Sex Trafficking

An illegal alien from Mexico pleaded guilty Tuesday, December 18, 2012, to conspiring to engage in the sex trafficking of two minors. The guilty pleas resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Kentucky State Police.

Adulfo De Aquino-Cancino, age 28, a resident of Taylor County, Ky., pleaded guilty Dec. 18 to conspiring to benefit financially from a prostitution venture that recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided and obtained by any means two minors. De Aquino-Cancino pleaded guilty and will serve 84 months in prison and up to a lifetime of supervised release. As part of the plea agreement, the United States agreed to dismiss counts 2, 3 and 4 of the grand jury indictment.

According to the plea agreement, between August 2011 and January 2012, De Aquino-Cancino engaged in a conspiracy where he knowingly benefitted from participating in a venture that recruited minors to engage in commercial sex acts. The conduct of the venture constituted interstate commerce because De Aquino-Cancino communicated with the minors via cellular telephone and text messages. De Aquino-Cancino was indicted by a grand jury meeting in Bowling Green, Ky., May 16.

According to an affidavit filed by HSI in support of a criminal complaint, between August 2011, and January 2012, De Aquino-Cancino recruited females, arranged for commercial sexual encounters, transported and benefited financially from commercial sex transactions involving two minors and several adults in Green, Taylor, Adair and Barren counties in the Western District of Kentucky.

On January 19, De Aquino-Cancino was interviewed by a Kentucky State Police detective. He stated that he knew several girls in the Campbellsville, Ky., area who were prostitutes. He further states that he would go to Campbellsville to pick the prostitutes up and take them to different locations where they performed commercial sex acts with the defendant’s friends. The prostitutes would in turn pay De Aquino-Cancino for driving them to the locations. De Aquino-Cancino identified the two juveniles and affirmed that he knew that what he was doing was illegal.

Following this interview, De Aquino-Cancino was arrested by the Kentucky State Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua D. Judd, Western District of Kentucky, is prosecuting the case.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

HSI is a founding member and the U.S. representative of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Mexican Sex Trafficking Ring Busted by HSI

The extradition and arraignment of four Mexican sex traffickers – along with the reunion of a Mexican sex trafficking victim and her child – was announced December 10, 2012, as a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

On Monday, December 10, 2012, two Mexican nationals, Benito Lopez-Perez, 32, and Anastasio Romero-Perez, 39, were arraigned on a 25-count indictment after their extradition from Mexico. The indictment charges the defendants with sex trafficking, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling and money laundering offenses, involving victims as young as 14 and 15 years old.

A third defendant in that case, Jose Gabino Barrientos-Perez, 51, was extradited from Mexico and arraigned Dec. 3 on the same charges as his co-defendants.

If convicted of sex trafficking, these defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years and maximum sentences of life in prison.

Another Mexican sex trafficking defendant, Antonio Lira-Robles, 37, was also extradited and arraigned in federal court Nov. 19 in a separate multi-defendant case on charges of sex trafficking, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling and money laundering. Four defendants in the Granados-Hernandez case have pleaded guilty to sex trafficking crimes and are awaiting sentencing. Two of the defendants face 15-year mandatory minimum sentences. If convicted of sex trafficking, Lira-Robles faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The successful reunification of a Mexican sex trafficking victim with her child, who was being held in Mexico by members of a trafficking organization, was also announced as part of the investigation. The man who had trafficked the victim and fathered the child was convicted in 2005 of multiple counts of sex trafficking and numerous other crimes in one of the first sex trafficking cases prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY). After substantial post-conviction investigation and international coordination, the child was located and reunited with the victim-mother.

“Few crimes are more repugnant than the trafficking of innocent women and girls for sex,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. “The extraditions over the weekend followed by the arraignments today are a testament to our resolve to bring to justice those charged with forcing young women into prostitution. HSI places equal value on the identification and rescue of victims as we do for the prosecution of traffickers who prey on them. HSI is committed to working closely with its local and international law enforcement partners to ensure there is no safe haven for those who seek to gain financially through the extortion and coercion of the victims of human and sex trafficking.”

“As alleged, the defendants lured young women into the world’s oldest profession using the world’s oldest ruse – the promise of a committed relationship and a better life. Once here in the United States, the women were cut off from their families and kept dependent on the traffickers, whose promises of love soon turned to lies, beatings, and threats to the victims’ families in order to maintain their hold over them. These latest extraditions and the reunification of a victim with her child are the culmination of a sustained and committed effort by the United States government and its partners in Mexico to work together, and to work with their partners in the community, to identify, prosecute and punish sex traffickers and to restore the dignity and lives of survivors of this heinous crime,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, Eastern District of New York. “The sex trafficking of young girls and women is modern-day slavery. We will do everything in our power to eradicate it.”

“The Department of Justice commends the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York for the tireless dedication her office has shown, placing her district on the cutting edge of the department’s nationwide anti-trafficking efforts. Reuniting this survivor with her child – after the traffickers cruelly tore them apart – vindicates the rights and dignity of the human beings victimized by this crime, and inspires us to continue in our relentless pursuit of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue to build strategic partnerships to bring traffickers to justice and deliver on the promise of freedom for victims of modern-day slavery.”

Lopez-Perez Case

As alleged in affidavits submitted in connection with the extradition proceedings, between January 2003 and October 2010, Benito Lopez-Perez, Jose Gabino Barrientos-Perez and Anastasio Romero-Perez, who are brothers, are charged with trafficking three young Mexican women, identified in the superseding indictment in this case as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3, from Mexico without proper documentation, and forcing them to work as prostitutes in New York and elsewhere in the United States. The defendants recruited and enticed the three victims when they were 14 and 15 years old in Mexico. After luring the victims into intimate relationships through false promises of romance and marriage, the defendants forced the victims to work for the defendants as prostitutes in Mexico. The defendants beat and sexually assaulted the victims to compel them to work as prostitutes and punish them for not earning enough money for the defendants, and the victims were required to turn over all of their earnings to the defendants. The defendants also threatened violence against the victims’ family members to prevent the victims from running away.

In July 2005, Lopez-Perez, Barrientos-Perez and Romero-Perez began smuggling the victims into the United States illegally to work as prostitutes. The defendants housed the victims in apartments in New York. Each day, the victims were driven to locations throughout New York and to other states to engage in prostitution. The three brothers worked together, frequently relying on each other to watch over the victims when any of the brothers traveled back to Mexico.

After the victims had arrived in the United States, the defendants directed the victims to send the money they earned from prostitution to the defendants’ family members in Mexico. At the defendants’ direction, the victims went to various wire transfer service companies in New York on a regular basis and sent sums of money ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to the defendants’ family members in Mexico. The defendants also directed the victims to use fake names when sending the money.

Granados-Hernandez Case

As set forth in extradition affidavits, between October 1998 and June 2011, members of the Granados-Hernandez sex trafficking organization, including Lira-Robles and his cousins Eleuterio Granados-Hernandez, Samuel Granados-Hernandez, and others, smuggled young women from Mexico illegally into the United States, forced them to work as prostitutes in New York and elsewhere in the United States and collected profits from their activities. Eight of the victims of this sex trafficking organization are identified in the third superseding indictment in the Granados-Hernandez case as Jane Doe 1 through Jane Doe 8. The younger male members of the Granados-Hernandez family, including Lira-Robles, Eleuterio Granados-Hernandez and Samuel Granados-Hernandez, recruited the victims by luring them into romantic relationships through false promises of love and support. Eleuterio and Samuel Granados-Hernandez have each pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in the Granados-Hernandez case.

When the victims were first recruited, they were taken to the Granados-Hernandez ‘s hometown, Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico, usually under false pretenses. Many of the victims were not allowed to leave the Granados-Hernandez homes, and they were not allowed to contact their families. After a short stay at the Granados-Hernandez ‘s homes, Lira-Robles and other members of the organization pressured the victims to travel to the United States.

The victims were smuggled by the Granados-Hernandez organization into the United States illegally. The victims were housed in apartments in New York, often living with other wives or girlfriends of Granados-Hernandez family members. Upon arriving in New York the victims learned, most of them for the first time, that the members of the organization intended for them to work in prostitution. When the victims refused or resisted, Lira-Robles, Eleuterio Granados- Hernandez, Samuel Granados-Hernandez and other members of the organization beat and sexually assaulted the victims to compel them to work as prostitutes. They also threatened to harm the victims’ family members in Mexico to prevent the victims from running away. Some of the victims were initially convinced to work in prostitution through false promises that the victims’ earnings would be used to build a house in Mexico for the victim and her trafficker-boyfriend. The victims were driven on a daily basis to locations throughout New York and to other states to engage in prostitution.

As alleged, Lira-Robles and his co-conspirators worked together in trafficking the victims, frequently relying on each other to maintain control and watch over the victims when the traffickers traveled between Mexico and the United States, to arrange and pay for smuggling of the victims, and to coerce, trick and compel new victims into relationships with Granados-Hernandez family members and into working as prostitutes.

After the victims arrived in the United States, Lira-Robles and others directed the victims to send the money they earned from prostitution to Granados-Hernandez family members in Mexico.

On a regular basis, Lira-Robles directed his victims to go to various wire transfer service companies in New York City and send sums of money ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to Granados family members in Mexico.

Carreto Case/Victim-Child Reunification

The child of one of the victims from the Carreto case was recently rescued in Mexico and was finally able to join the child’s mother in the United States. The victim-mother and her child had been separated by the Carreto organization for over 10 years. The reunification was accomplished through the collaborative efforts of  U.S. and Mexican authorities, non-governmental victim service organizations in both countries and pro bono attorneys in Mexico. In total, through the EDNY anti-trafficking program, 14 children have been reunited with their victim-mothers.

Since 2009, the Department of Justice and HSI have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in the Procuraduría General de la República, the Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (SSP), Procuraduría Social de Atención a las Víctimas de Delitos, and non-governmental partners in the United States and Mexico in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative.

Through this initiative, the United States and Mexico have collaborated to bring high-impact prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law to more effectively dismantle human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, prosecute human traffickers, rescue human trafficking victims and reunite victims with their families. Other significant bilateral cases have been prosecuted in Atlanta, Ga., and Miami, Fla.

U.S. Attorney Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division for their assistance in obtaining the extraditions of the defendants, and the victim-child reunification, to the New York City Police Department for its longstanding partnership in EDNY’s coordinated anti-trafficking program, and to the State Department and International Office of Migration for their assistance in the reunification effort. Ms. Lynch also thanked the many victim service providers and advocates for their dedicated efforts to restore and improve the lives of survivors of trafficking.

In particular, Ms. Lynch thanked the organizations and individuals who provided services and advocacy to the victims in the Lopez-Perez, Granados-Hernandez, and Carreto cases: Safe Horizon; Sanctuary for Families; the Urban Justice Center; the New York City Bar Justice Center; The Legal Aid Society, Civil Division (Bronx); My Sister’s Place; Bennu Legal Services; the Hispanic Advocate, IMUMI, attorneys Daniel Palafox Palafox and Luis Rodrigo Iglesias; and the law firms of Steptoe & Johnson; Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett; King & Spalding, and Duane Morris.

EDNY’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program has led to the indictment of 52 defendants in sex trafficking cases, and the rescue of over 100 victims, including 17 minors.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Former INS Employee Arranged Fake Marriages for Immigrants, is Indicted for Marriage Fraud and Alien Harboring

A past applications-adjudicator for the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been indicted by a Bay Area grand jury on nine criminal counts stemming from his alleged role in a marriage fraud scheme.

Andrew Chojecki, 61, a naturalized U.S. citizen who most recently resided in Poland, is charged in an indictment handed down Thursday, December 6, 2012, with conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud, marriage fraud, and alien harboring. The charges are the result of a two-year probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and its partner agencies on the San Francisco Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Fraud Detection and National Security Unit.

Six additional defendants are accused of conspiring with Chojecki to commit the fraud. They are; Beata Szkop, Malgorzata Zuk, Aaron Goldsmith, Pawel Karolak, Vito Scherma and Hector Vargas. The latter four defendants are also charged with alien harboring.

According to the indictment, unsealed Monday, Chojecki allegedly facilitated fraudulent marriages in exchange for cash payments from at least April 2010 through November of 2012. The indictment claims Chojecki introduced aliens and U.S. citizens to each other for the purpose of entering into sham marriages to evade U.S. immigration laws. The indictment further alleges Chojecki provided the aliens with fraudulent immigration forms he prepared, sample questions he anticipated they might be asked by immigration officials, and guidance on steps aliens should take to make the marriages appear legitimate. In exchange for these services, Chojecki allegedly required the aliens to pay an initial lump sum at the time of the wedding, which he split with the U.S. citizen spouses, with additional sums payable to the spouses when the aliens received their green cards.

Chojecki was arrested in Los Angeles Nov. 23 when he arrived on a flight from Poland. The following week a magistrate judge in Los Angeles ordered Chojecki released on a $170,000 unsecured bond, with the condition of electronic monitoring. Prosecutors have appealed that release order to the district court in San Francisco on the grounds that Chojecki is a flight risk. Defendants Szkop, Karolak, Vargas and Zuk were arrested Monday, December 10, 2012, and made their initial appearance in federal court. Defendants Goldsmith and Scherma remain at large.

Each count of conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud, and marriage fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of alien harboring is 10 years in prison. The government is also seeking forfeiture of assets arising out of the conspiracy and alien harboring counts.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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ICE Deports Two Criminal Alien Sexual Predators

Two Mexican nationals convicted of sexual assault in Arkansas were removed from the United States Monday, November 26, 2012, by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

Candelario de la Cruz-Gutierrez, 33, and Jesus Arredondo-Jasso, 24, were detained by ICE following their release from local custody due to convictions for sexual assault. In additional to their sex crimes both men have multiple prior arrests for unlawful entry into the United States and were identified by ICE’s Criminal Alien Program, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing criminal aliens.

“ICE will continue to focus its enforcement operations on identifying, arresting and removing sexual predators and convicted criminals from our community,” said Philip Miller, ICE field office director for ERO New Orleans. “Criminals in Arkansas should be on notice – ICE will find you and bring you to justice.”

According to agency records, ICE took custody of Arredondo-Jasso May 21 at the East Arkansas Regional Corrections Facility, where he was serving a prison sentence for felony sexual assault. Arredondo-Jasso was initially deported in 2007 following his illegal entry into the United States along the Texas border. In 2008, ICE arrested Arredondo-Jasso for again illegally entering the United States; he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful re-entry and was deported again.

ICE took custody of Cruz-Gutierrez Oct. 27 at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility after he was sentenced to probation following a felony conviction for sexual assault. Cruz-Gutierrez was previously caught illegally entering the United States along the Texas border in 2008 and again in 2009. The U.S. Border Patrol and ICE returned Cruz–Gutierrez to Mexico both times.

ERO is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security. ERO also prioritizes the arrest and removal of those who game the immigration system including immigration fugitives or those criminal aliens who have been previously deported and illegally re-entered the country.

Largely as a result of these initiatives, for three years in a row, ERO has removed more aliens than were removed in fiscal year 2008. Overall, in FY 2011 ERO removed 396,906 individuals nationwide –the largest number in the agency’s history. Of these, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of the people removed, were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors –an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals since FY 2008. This includes 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence. ERO achieved similar results with regard to other categories prioritized for removal. Ninety percent of all ERO’s removals fell into a priority category and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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