On Tuesday, the federal government charged 13 men, nine of whom live in Queens, with crimes related to running an international sex trafficking ring from the rural enclave of Tenancingo, Mexico to New York. Homeland Security Investigations issued search warrants for four brothels in Yonkers, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Queens. Nine men were arrested, though three were already incarcerated, and one suspect remains on the loose.
“With promises of a better life, the members of this alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring lured their unsuspecting victims to the United States and then consigned them to a living hell – forcing them to become sex slaves living in abhorrent conditions, and using threats, verbal abuse, and violence – sexual and otherwise – when they resisted and even sometimes when they didn’t,” said U.S. attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.
The details of the alleged crimes–including sex trafficking, interstate transportation for prostitution, and possession of child pornography, among others–outlined in the complaint are disturbing. It describes victims being beaten, threatened, and force to have sex with 20 to 30 New York customers a day, a service for which the johns paid $30-$35. More than half of that amount went to the driver or the brothel, and the remainder to the victim, who was usually forced to hand it over to the trafficker, according to the complaint.
“After periods of victimization- typically months or years – many victims manage to escape,” the complaint reads. “Without legal status in the United States, without family or friends for support,without employment opportunities, and as a result of the trauma they have suffered, victims sometimes return to prostitution.”
The typical pattern for coercing rural women into the sex trade was engaging them in romantic relationships, according to the prosecutors.
Last year, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received information about 162 cases of potential sex and labor trafficking in New York through its hotline. Since 2007, the NHTRC has received 3,137 calls dealing with all potential incidences of human trafficking in New York altogether.