News and Press Releases

Local Federal Prosecutor, FBI Special Agent,
and ICE Special Agent Receive Prestigious
Attorney General’s Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2010

Memphis, TN - Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Tracey L. Harris, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Greg W. Swearngin, Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti, and Assistant United States Attorney Stephen C. Parker have been awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, announced Edward L. Stanton III, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Amy Hess, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Johnson. Agents Harris, Swearngin, Trial Attorney Skrmetti, and AUSA Parker are receiving the Department of Justice’s Second Highest Award for their exceptional work as the prosecution team in Operation Latina Libre.

Operation Latina Libre was the successful investigation and prosecution of an international child sex trafficking ring led by Juan Mendez and Christina Perfecto. The investigation began in September, 2006 when the prosecution team received information that underage girls from Mexico were being forced to work in several Mexican brothels in the Memphis area. On October 13, 2006 search warrants were executed on seven locations in Memphis, Tennessee. Investigators took twenty seven individuals into custody on a variety of criminal and immigration charges. Information obtained from the search warrants revealed that Juan Mendez and Christina Perfecto of Nashville, Tennessee were supplying underage girls to brothels located throughout the southeastern United States.

Using the information from the search warrants, the prosecution team was able to locate and rescue a fourteen year old minor, “ S.C.”. Through S.C. the prosecution team learned that Juan Mendez would send his girlfriend Christiana Perfecto to a rural village in Oaxaca, Mexico to recruit young girls to come to the United States to work in a Nashville restaurant and to attend American schools. Once the girls arrived, they were threatened, beaten, raped, and then forced to work in brothels in several different states.

Armed with this information the prosecution team traveled to Nashville, executed search warrants, and arrested Mendez and Perfecto. The prosecution team was also able to locate and rescue E.F. a seventeen year old Oaxacan girl forced to work for Mendez and Perfecto. Subsequently, both Mendez and Perfecto plead guilty to human trafficking charges. Mendez received a sentence of 600 months and Perfecto received a sentence of 190 months. Operation Latina Libre also resulted in the conviction of nine other individuals for human trafficking and federal prostitution charges for using minors in Memphis brothels.

“It is my pleasure to congratulate this year’s Attorney General Award winners and to recognize their extraordinary contributions,” Attorney General Holder said. “Not only is their service to our nation inspiring, it is strengthening the work of the Justice Department at every level and making a powerful difference for people across our country, and far beyond. This year’s awardees exemplify the Department’s finest traditions, and I am privileged, and grateful, to count them as colleagues.”

United States Attorney Edward Stanton commented, “This Distinguished Service Award earned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Parker is a well deserved honor. Mr. Parker is to be commended for his leadership in coordinating the efforts of the talented team of individuals in the Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and ICE.”

“Special Agent Tracey L. Harris is a tenacious, talented, and tireless investigator who demonstrates every day the exceptional service for which she is being formally recognized, “ said Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Amy S. Hess. “Her integrity and professionalism, her compassion for victims, and her unwavering dedication have literally changed the lives of individuals across the State of Tennessee and nationally. The FBI is proud of her accomplishments and those of the other honorees whose work in this investigation was quite remarkable.”

Assistant Special Agent in Charge Johnson stated, “Being selected to receive this prestigious honor from the Department of Justice reflects great credit upon Special Agent Greg Swearngin and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).”

The Attorney General presented the award to the members of the prosecution team today at an awards ceremony held at Constitution Hall, in Washington, DC.

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