Women working in cantinas in Houston were trafficked and held in servitude. Now the mastermind is going to jail. People, this happens right in front of our eyes. This happened in the UNITED STATES…less than 200 miles from where I live in Austin. This is a typical story of human/sex trafficking. Take the time to read it. Be alert. You might save a life.
The U.S. Department of Justice website says here is how to report trafficking:
Report trafficking crimes or get help by calling the toll-free hotline 1-888-428-7581 (voice and TTY).
Here’s the article from today’s Houston Chronicle:
Sex-trafficking ringleader gets 13 years in prison
By Lise Olsen
Salvadoran smuggled Central American women into servitude at cantinas
The mastermind of a human trafficking ring that smuggled women from Central America to work in Houston cantinas as virtual sex slaves was sentenced Monday to 13 years in federal prison.
He previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for recruiting and trafficking dozens of women and girls to Houston for commercial gain and for holding them “in a condition of indentured servitude.”
Along with others convicted in the case, he has also been ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution to victims, some of whom have obtained visas to stay in the United States and still live in the area.
The case involving Maximino Mondragon, 57, remains one of the largest human trafficking rings ever uncovered in the United States.
The Chronicle reported last year that Mondragon lured the women to the United States with false promises of legitimate jobs. Once here, traffickers charged the women huge fees for their trip and expenses and held them as prisoners until they could work off what, for many, seemed to be impossible debts.
The women were forced to wear skimpy clothes and sell high-priced drinks to men at local cantinas who were then allowed to touch them.
Mondragon “ruthlessly exploited these women’s hopes for a better life through coercion, false promises and threats of harm. The victims were forced into modern day slavery,” Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., said in a statement Monday. “The Justice Department will devote its efforts to prosecuting those who commit such abhorrent and exploitative crimes.”
More than 120 women were liberated on the night of Nov. 13, 2005, when Mondragon and his fellow defendants were arrested in a massive nighttime raid of five of their bars and restaurants in seedy strip malls in northwest Houston.
Mondragon is the last of eight ring members to be convicted and sentenced.
According to records, Mondragon ran cantinas in Houston for more than a decade, along with Walter Corea. Both are natives of El Salvador. Five members of their families and a female abortionist were previously convicted and sentenced as accomplices.
“The victims in this case were subjected to horrible treatment at the hands of these defendants,” said Tim Johnson, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
Several victims told the Chronicle they were threatened and beaten or told their families back home would be harmed or killed if they attempted escape. Most lived in low-rent apartments or houses watched over by ring members or by security cameras.
Mondragon, a legal permanent resident, his girlfriend and two siblings owned and operated most of the businesses used for trafficking. Corea was accused of serving as chief trafficker, importing women from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras for the ring. Illegally in the United States, he also ran a bar here with his wife and son.
Houston’s Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance spent a year investigating and assembling a case against Mondragon.
On the night of the raid, Mondragon was holding his own farewell party in his bar, El Potrero de Chimino, also known as the Wagon Wheel, on Hempstead Highway. He’d purchased a one-way ticket back home to El Salvador.
That ticket went unused.