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February 1, 2006

Salvadoran natls. implicated in trafficking plot in U.S.

Also via the New York Jewish Times: Salvadoran Nationals in the U.S. Arrested for Sex Trafficking Scheme (12/19/05).
HOUSTON, Texas (ICE) -- Eight Salvadoran nationals were arrested by ICE agents for their alleged roles in an organization that trafficked Latin American females, including minors, into the United States and forced them into sexual servitude.

The females were enticed with promises of good jobs in America, only to be forced to work as “bargirls” for minimal payment and the requirement that they submit to the sexual demands of the defendants, bar patrons and others. During the enforcement actions, ICE agents, working with the FBI and state and local law enforcement, encountered nearly 100 females who may be victims of the sex trafficking scheme.

The federal criminal complaint alleges that the eight defendants, all of them owners or operators of bars and nightclubs in the Houston area, were part of an organization responsible for enticing and then smuggling young women from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras into the United States across the Texas-Mexico border. The women were required to work at their businesses to pay off smuggling fees ranging from $8,000 to $13,000. Instead of the good jobs they were promised, the women were made to work as “bargirls,” sitting and dancing with customers and selling overpriced drinks to the men. The bars in question employed as many as 30 women in such a capacity at any given time.

According to the complaint, one young woman earned about $500 to $600 a week selling drinks to male customers. But after paying debts that included alien smuggling fees, food, housing, clothing and other miscellaneous items, she received approximately $50 each week. In addition to the almost insurmountable debt, the complaint alleges that the defendants used threats of violence against the women and their families to control them and keep them working. The complaint alleges that the defendants compelled the woman and girls to submit to the sexual demands of the defendants, their close associates and bar patrons.

All eight defendants are charged with conspiring to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide and obtain the women and girls, and then benefiting financially from participation in a venture that engaged in such acts, knowing that force, fraud and coercion would be used to cause these women and girls to engage in commercial sex acts. A charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

During the course of the law enforcement action, approximately 100 women from Central and South America were taken into ICE custody on various immigration related charges. The investigation continues.
[HT], [SS]

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