April 27, 2009
LAST DEFENDANT SENTENCED FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND ALIEN SMUGGLING CHARGES
(HOUSTON) – Maximino Mondragon, 57, has been sentenced for his role in a scheme to smuggle Central American women and girls into the United States and hold them in a condition of forced labor in the Houston area, acting U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson and acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Loretta King announced today. U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore sentenced Mondragon to 156 months incarceration, three years post release supervision, a $200 special assessment and further ordered that he, jointly with his co-defendants, pay $1,715,588.05 in restitution to the victims.
Mondragon is the last of eight defendants to be convicted and sentenced in connection with this scheme to compel the victims into service in restaurants, bars and cantinas, using threats to harm the victims and their families if they attempted to leave before paying off their smuggling debts.
“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. “We will use every resource available to make certain that violations of this sort result in the maximum prison term available.”
Mondragon previously pleaded guilty to violations of conspiracy to hold persons in a condition of indentured servitude and to illegally and knowingly recruiting, harboring, transporting persons for labor and services, and conspiracy to bring, harbor and transport known illegal aliens for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain.
The defendants lured Central American women to the United States with promises of good jobs. However, once the young women arrived, they were forced to work in the defendants’ bars and cantinas selling high-priced drinks to male customers. The women were subjected to threats of harm to them and their families in order to compel their servitude.
“The defendant 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,” King said. “The Justice Department will devote its efforts to prosecuting those who commit such abhorrent and exploitative crimes.”
Co-defendants Oscar Mondragon and Walter Corea were also convicted of both conspiracy counts and each sentenced to prison terms of 180 months. Co-defendant Victor Omar Lopez was sentenced to 109 months in prison on both conspiracy counts. Co-defendant Olga Mondragon, who was convicted of multiple charges stemming from her involvement in these schemes to hold young Central American victims in a condition of forced labor and to smuggle the young women to the United States for financial gain, was sentenced to a prison term of 84 months. Co-defendant Maria Fuentes was convicted of harboring the young women for financial gain and sentenced to 30 months in prison. Co-defendant Lorenza Reyes-Nunez was convicted of obstruction of justice and has been sentenced to 19 months in prison. Co-defendant Kerin Silva was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle aliens and sentenced to 12 months’ home detention followed by three years of probation.
In announcing the sentencing, King and Johnson commended the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, the Harris County Constable Precinct Five Office and the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, a federally funded multi-agency human trafficking task force, for their work on this cooperative investigation and prosecution.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben Perez and Joseph Magliolo and Civil Rights Division attorneys Jim Felte and Hilary Axam prosecuted this case for the government.
# # #