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Feb. 11, 2010

AREA BAR OWNER CHARGED WITH SEX TRAFFICKING OF MINORS

(McALLEN, Texas) – An alleged Mission, Texas, bar owner has been indicted by a federal grand jury for sex trafficking minor females, conspiracy and harboring illegal aliens, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Beleal Garcia-Gonzalez, 34, a Mexican national and resident alien and the alleged owner of the “El Paraiso” bar in Mission, was arrested on Jan. 13, 2010, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and charged by criminal complaint. He has been ordered held in federal custody without bond pending trial on the charges.

“Because human traffickers pray on the most vulnerable,” said Jerry Robinette, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Antonio, “ICE will continue to aggressively identify and assist victims of human trafficking and apprehend and present for prosecution those allegedly responsible.”

In addition to Garcia-Gonzalez, the indictment charges Elizabeth Mendez-Vasquez, 22, and Maria Luisa Vaquez-Garcia, 19, both from Mexico illegally in the U.S., with conspiracy and three counts of harboring illegal aliens. Mendez-Vasquez was arrested on Jan. 13, 2010, and remains in federal custody without bond pending trial. Vasquez-Garcia, who is allegedly Garcia-Gonzalez’s girlfriend, was initially taken into custody as a material witness. She was arrested today as a result of the return of this indictment and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby. Vasquez-Garcia has been ordered temporarily held in the United States Marshals Service custody pending a detention hearing set for Feb. 17. 

The 10-count indictment was returned on Feb. 9, 2010. Garcia-Gonzalez is accused in three counts of knowingly recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining and maintaining a minor child under 18 years of age in reckless disregard of the fact that force, fraud and coercion would cause that minor to engage in a commercial sex act between November 2009 and Jan. 13, 2010. The indictment alleges three different minor children were caused to engage in these sex acts.

The fourth count of the indictment accuses all three defendants of conspiring to harbor the minors in a house and a bar in Mission. Garcia-Gonzalez and Mendez-Vasquez are accused in three additional counts of harboring the minors in the Mission house while three other counts accuse Garcia-Gonzalez and Vasquez-Garcia of harboring the minors at the bar.

Garcia-Gonzalez, Mendez-Vasquez and Vasquez-Garcia each face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 if convicted of the conspiracy or harboring charges. Garcia-Gonzalez faces up to life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted of any one of the three sex trafficking charges.

The indictment also seeks an order to forfeit  the interest Garcia-Gonzales has in the house allegedly used by the defendants to harbor the minors in the United States.
 
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by ICE beginning in January 2010 as a result of information received from a tip that underage undocumented aliens were being forced to work and into prostitution.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Leo is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

 

 

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