FLORENCE MAN CONVICTED OF SEX-TRAFFICKING 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL
HUNTSVILLE – A federal jury today convicted a Florence man for the sex trafficking of a 15-year-old girl, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick Maley and ICE Special Agent in Charge Ray Parmer.
Following two days of testimony before U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith Jr., the jury deliberated less than 30 minutes before convicting MANUEL ENRIQUE ZELAYA-RODRIGUEZ, 31, of trafficking the under-age girl for sex. The jury also convicted him of coercing a minor to engage in prostitution, of harboring an illegal alien and of failing to file a report with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about an illegal alien in his employment.
ZELAYA-RODRIGUEZ, also known as Mecanico, harbored the girl in Lauderdale County and caused her to engage in commercial sex acts between about Aug. 25, 2009, and Sept. 8, 2009, evidence showed. Florence police arrested ZELAYA-RODRIGUEZ in September 2009 following a traffic stop near a trailer park where there had been complaints of prostitution, according to testimony. The 15-year-old girl was in the car with ZELAYA-RODRIGUEZ and subsequently told police he was prostituting her.
“We have shut down this particular trafficker and, hopefully, given pause to others who would commit the same morally reprehensible crime,” Vance said. “Human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor is a growing problem in North Alabama and across the country and is a grave concern of the Department of Justice,” she said. “We want a zero-tolerance policy on this crime.”
Vance commended the work of the Florence Police Department in recognizing a potential case of human trafficking and making the arrest. “The stop here was the result of a police officer who had some good training and put it to good use,” she said.
“The FBI is committed to working with ICE and our other law enforcement partners to combat human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, and bring to justice those who would deny individuals of their fundamental right to freedom,” Maley said.
ZELAYA-RODRIGUEZ faces a minimum 10-year prison sentence and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI and ICE and the Florence Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Stuart Burrell and Daniel Fortune are prosecuting the case.
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