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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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Woman Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison for Sex Trafficking

A former Sacramento woman was sentenced Wednesday, November 28, 2012, to nine years in federal prison on charges stemming from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI that linked her to a scheme to sex traffic teenage girls.

Helen Jean Singh (née Kearney), 22, pleaded guilty earlier in 2012 to participating in a sex trafficking conspiracy involving the prostitution of teenage females. During the sentencing on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, Singh accepted responsibility for her actions.

A federal grand jury indicted Singh and her husband, Mahendar “Mike” Singh, on the sex trafficking conspiracy charge in December 2011. According to the indictment, the pair recruited teenage girls by promising money, drugs and a “family-like environment.” The couple maintained control over their victims by providing drugs, using physical force and threats of physical force, and fostering a climate of fear. The Singh’s used the Internet to advertise their prostitution enterprise, which spanned from SacramentoCounty to multiple Bay Area counties.

“Few crimes strike at our community the way sex trafficking does,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said. “By sexually exploiting children and young adults for financial gain, sex traffickers have shown that greed has no bounds. My office will continue to lead efforts by law enforcement to fight the menace that is sex trafficking.”

The Singhs were arrested in August 2011 after the South San Francisco Police Department responded to a motel near the San FranciscoAirport and found Mahendar Singh with three teenage girls. The affidavit alleges the defendants used an Internet website to advertise their victims and employed cell phones and text-messaging to make arrangements with customers.

“While no prison sentence can ever compensate for the physical and emotional toll experienced by trafficking victims, this lengthy prison term should serve as a sobering warning about the consequences facing those who engage in this reprehensible practice,” said Clark Settles, special agent in charge ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Francisco. “Human traffickers prey on the powerless and the vulnerable. ICE Homeland Security Investigations and its federal law enforcement partners are committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”

“The FBI will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to relentlessly pursue and bring to justice sex traffickers who exploit and victimize juveniles,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Gavin of FBI San Francisco. “We will also work with our community partners to help those who are victimized get the assistance they need.”

In addition to HSI and the FBI, the other agencies involved in the case included the South San Francisco Police Department; the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office; the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit of the Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division; U.S. Department of Justice; and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton. Judge Hamilton also sentenced Helen Singh, who was and will remain in custody, to a five-year period of supervised release following her prison term and ordered her to forfeit property and make restitution of $45,000 to one of the victims. Mahendar Singh, who also pleaded guilty previously, received the same sentence April 18.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Huang prosecuted the case with the assistance of legal assistant Vanessa Vargas.

Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Puerto Rican Woman Indicted for Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

A Puerto Rican woman was indicted Wednesday, October 10, 2012, by a federal grand jury on prostitution and sex trafficking charges. The indictment follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the indictment, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3, Betsian Carrasquillo-Peñaloza, 34, of Loiza, Puerto Rico, recruited, enticed, harbored and transported a 14-year-old female identified as N.M.C.C. to engage in commercial sex acts. Carrasquillo-Peñaloza allegedly knew that the female was a minor.

“Sex trafficking is a deplorable crime, especially when it involves underage victims who are particularly vulnerable,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “Prostituting young girls is a growing threat in our area, and we encourage anyone with information about this activity to call law enforcement. Your call could save a girl from sexual slavery.”

On Oct. 3, HSI, working jointly with Puerto Rico Police Department officers in the vicinity of Isla Grande in San Juan, arrested Carrasquillo-Peñaloza for transporting a minor with the intent to prostitute. A federal grand jury formally charged the woman with an additional charge of sex trafficking Oct. 10.

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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

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

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Texas Child Predator Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

A north Texas man, who is a registered sex offender, was sentenced Wednesday, September 5, 2012, by U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn to 30 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release. This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

Adam Joshua Cortez, 31, is most recently a resident of Justin, Texas. He was sentenced following his conviction at trial in May. In July 2011, Cortez used the Internet and a cell phone to try to entice an individual he believed to be a 14-year-old girl to have sex with him. That individual, however, was an undercover police officer.

Cortez had been twice convicted in state courts of offenses similar to child enticement in 2002 and 2004. In fact, the second of those convictions occurred while he was on probation for committing the first.

This case was investigated by the Garland Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa J. Miller and Leigha A. Simonton, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted this 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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Texas Man Sentenced for Child Pornography

A local man was sentenced to more than 5 years in prison for possessing child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Armando Ruben Avila, 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal to 65 months in prison to be followed by a life term of supervised release. Avila will also have to register as a sex offender and was ordered to pay $3,000 restitution to one of the Internet victims found in his collection. Avila pleaded guilty to the charges Oct. 25.

The investigation began when HSI special agents received information regarding a commercial child pornography website. Special agents determined the company to be a pay-for-access commercial website offering child pornography in a variety of media formats, including still images, VHS and DVD videos. Paid membership to this website was secured by sending a Western Union moneygram to individuals in Russia. One of the moneygram payments was tracked to Avila.

On Oct. 14, 2009, HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at Avila’s Houston residence, at which time an HP Pavilion desktop and a Toshiba laptop were seized. Also at that time, Avila admitted to searching for and downloading child pornography on the Internet.

A forensic exam revealed images of child pornography on both computers. At least 4,000 images and 50 videos of child pornography were found. Some of the images depicted prepubescent girls engaging in sexual intercourse and oral sex with adult males.

Previously released on bond, Avila was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Stabe, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted 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.

 
 

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17 Year Sentence for Missouri Man Arrested for Child Pornography

A Missouri man was sentenced Monday, April 30, to 17 years in prison for receiving child pornography over the Internet. The lengthy sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Jason Farris, 31, of Anderson, Mo., was sentenced April 30 by U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith to 17 years and six months in federal prison without parole.

On Dec. 19, Farris pleaded guilty to receiving and distributing child pornography over the Internet. He admitted to using a peer-to-peer file sharing program to receive and share child pornography.

David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced the sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher, Western District of Missouri, successfully prosecuted 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 and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

 
 

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Elderly Indiana Man Sentenced for Child Pornography

A 70-year-old Indiana man, who traveled to the Chicago area to have sex with a 15-year-old girl, was sentenced to six years and three months in federal prison Thursday, April 19, for distributing child pornography. This sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Donald Strickland, of Hammond, Ind., was sentenced April 19 by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, Northern District of Illinois, to 75 months in federal prison without parole.

Strickland pleaded guilty March 25, 2010 to two counts of distributing child pornography. According to court documents, in February 2007 Strickland began chatting online with “Teri,” who he thought was a 15-year-old girl; Teri was actually an undercover special agent. During the chats, Strickland told Teri he wanted to teach her about sex, and he sent her sexually explicit images and videos containing child pornography.

Strickland made arrangements to travel to Wheaton, Ill., to meet and have sex with the girl. On March 13, 2007, he arrived at the meeting place and was arrested by HSI special agents. Strickland has been in federal custody since his arrest.

“Through Operation Predator, HSI aggressively investigates anyone who sexually exploits children,” said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. “Our special agents act as a barrier between sexual predators and the most vulnerable members of society – our kids. We will continue to vigilantly combat child exploitation and abuse, whether it is happening in the neighborhood playground or in cyber space.” Hartwig oversees a six-state area that includes Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas, and Missouri.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Schneider, Northern District of Illinois, prosecuted the case. The Wheaton Police Department assisted in the investigation.

The case is part of HSI’s Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice effort launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

As part of Operation Predator, 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 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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