Three Convicted of Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor, and Immigration Offenses on Long Island
Defendants Victimized Undocumented Immigrant Women
After a four-week trial, a federal jury in Central Islip, New York, today found Antonio Rivera and Jason Villaman guilty of conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor, alien harboring, and alien transportation. John Whaley was convicted of conspiracy, forced labor, alien harboring, and alien transportation. The charges arose in connection with the defendants operation of two bars, Sonidos de la Frontera in Lake Ronkonkoma and La Hija del Mariachi, in Farmingville, New York. Rivera was the owner of the bars, and Whaley and Villaman transported the victims to and from the bars. Villaman also worked as a security guard at Sonidos.
The convictions were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division; James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; Richard Dormer, Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Charles R. Pine, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York.
The government’s evidence at trial established that the defendants and others compelled undocumented Latin American women from Honduras, Guatelmala, Mexico, and El Salvador hired as waitresses in Rivera’s bars to engage in commercial sex acts by using violence, fraud, coercion, and threats of deportation.
“Those who exploit vulnerable individuals for personal gain will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We are committed to ensuring that everyone receives the full protection of our laws.” Ms. Lynch thanked the Defense Criminal Investigative Service for its assistance in this case.
“Human trafficking of this kind is the equivalent of modern day slavery. It deprives its victims of their freedom and dignity, and it has no place in our country. This case should serve as a reminder that the Justice Department is committed to the aggressive prosecution of those who rob individuals of their freedom for financial gain,” Assistant Attorney General Perez said.
“This investigation and the resulting guilty verdicts prove that there is no tolerance in our society for this form of unbridled abuse and cruel exploitation of women,” said ICE/HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. This outcome further solidifies our resolve to work closely with other law enforcement agencies to root out those criminals who mistakenly view the most vulnerable among us as easy prey.”
“I congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District as well as the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division for the successful prosecution of this human trafficking case,” stated Suffolk County Police Commissioner Dormer. “I appreciate the difficult task the detectives and agents had overcoming the fear that these undocumented women expressed during this investigation. This case sends an important message to all undocumented persons who may be here illegally and are being victimized: the law enforcement community and prosecutors will not tolerate your criminal exploitation; if you come forward, we will protect you.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Fedarcyk stated, “A jury has convicted these men of serious crimes that degraded and exploited particularly vulnerable women. Through violence and other means, the women were coerced into sexual servitude. The FBI is committed to protecting victims and potential victims of sexual predators.”
IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Pine stated, “IRS Special Agents are an integral part of financial investigations. If the case involves money, as in sex trafficking, we provide value in tracking down money trails. We always welcome the opportunity to provide financial investigative assistance to our law enforcement partners.”
When sentenced by United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein, the defendants face a maximum term of imprisonment of life on the sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking offenses, and 20 years for the forced labor, alien harboring, and transportation of aliens offenses. In addition, the defendants face a fine equal to twice the pecuniary gain resulting from their crimes.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Demetri M. Jones and Licha Nyiendo, and Senior Litigation Counsel John Cotton Richmond of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
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