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Sept. 11, 2009

BROWNSVILLE COUPLE PLEAD GUILTY TO SMUGGLING AND HARBORING ALIENS FOR PROSTITUTION

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - A Brownsville man and woman have been convicted for bringing in and harboring aliens for the purpose of prostitution, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

At a hearing before United States District Judge Hilda Tagle on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009, Juan Luis Coronado, aka Juan Hernandez, 37, of Brownsville, pleaded guilty to attempting to import a minor alien for prostitution purposes and now faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, followed by three years supervised release. Coronado has been and will remain in federal custody without bond pending his sentencing scheduled for Dec. 8, 2009. Coronado admitted to directing a prostitute working for him to attempt to bring in a 14-year-old minor from Mexico to work for him as a prostitute in October 2008 and to bringing in and managing two other alien prostitutes. The prostitutes were housed in a Brownsville hotel where Coronado’s girlfriend, co-defendant Lee Ann Zieger, 40, was the manager. Coronado used a room key labeled “Property Manager” during the course of the prostitution scheme. In addition to working at the hotel, Coronado and Zieger took the prostitutes to work at a festival at Padre Island last October. 

Lee Ann Zieger, also of Brownsville, pleaded guilty to two counts of harboring aliens for prostitution and also faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, followed by three years supervised release. The court has permitted Zieger to remain on bond pending her sentencing hearing also scheduled for Dec. 8, 2009. Zieger admitted to providing Coronado with a room which she knew he was using to carry on the prostitution business with the aliens, as well as picking up the prostitutes after they had crossed into the United States. 

The seven-month investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agents and initiated on Oct. 14, 2008. At that time, the woman later determined to have been working as a prostitute for Coronado, accompanied by a 14-year-old minor, attempted to enter the U.S. through the Gateway Port of Entry in Cameron County, Texas. The juvenile presented a U.S. birth certificate provided to her at the direction of Coronado. However, upon inspection, agents determined the juvenile was not the U.S. citizen named on the birth certificate, but rather a Mexican citizen without legal status to enter the U.S. Further investigation lead to the identification of Coronado as the woman’s employer and her actions involving the 14-year-old undertaken at his direction. Zieger was identified as being involved in the harboring of the aliens at a Brownsville area hotel where she worked as the manager. The woman was prosecuted for illegal entry and deported and the minor was voluntarily returned to Mexico.

Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Leonard is prosecuting the case.

 

 

 

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