WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that Juan Mendez of Nashville, Tenn., was sentenced on June 27, 2008 to 50 years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release for sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of a juvenile. He was also ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to his victims.
Mendez pleaded guilty on Dec. 13, 2007, to two counts of child sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. Mendez admitted to fraudulently luring two young girls, aged 13 and 17, to Tennessee with the intent of forcing them into prostitution. Mendez further admitted to threatening the victims, physically and verbally, in order to coerce them into prostitution.
Ten other defendants had earlier pleaded guilty in this same case for crimes including: child sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, conspiracy to commit money laundering, enticing an individual to travel in interstate commerce to commit prostitution, and violating the Mann Act.
"This defendant lured young girls to this country with the promise of jobs working in a restaurant, then used physical and psychological abuse to force them to work in brothels across the South," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We hope that this sentence will give a new sense of hope to the young victims in this case, whose lives were tragically affected by the defendant’s criminal acts."
"Serious crimes carry serious consequences, and the sentence imposed by the Court today, should send that message to those who commit these crimes," said Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. "Human trafficking is taken seriously in the Western District of Tennessee and we intend to pursue all violators to the fullest extent of the law."
"This investigation clearly illustrates that those who would exploit women and children for their own profit will be identified and prosecuted through the cooperative efforts of federal and state law enforcement agencies," said Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Too many children are victimized by predators who target the most vulnerable among us - our children, " said Michael A. Holt, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in New Orleans. "ICE is committed to apprehending and presenting for prosecution cases involving those who abuse our children and endanger their lives and well-being. We will continue working with federal, state and local agencies to ensure that those who try to hurt children are brought to justice."
Human trafficking prosecutions such as this one are a top priority of the Department of Justice. In the last seven fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by nearly seven-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years. In FY 2007, the Department obtained a record number of convictions in human trafficking prosecutions.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Parker of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice prosecuted the case. The investigation was led by Memphis FBI Agent Tracey Harris and Memphis U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Greg Swearngin. They were assisted by ICE agents in Nashville, the Memphis Police Department, the Nashville Police Department, and FBI and ICE agents from around the country who lent their expertise to the investigation. Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, the YWCA, and World Relief have assisted the victims and witnesses in this matter.