Sept. 23, 2010
JURY CONVICTS BAR OWNER OF SEX TRAFFICKING
(McALLEN, Texas) - Late this afternoon, a federal jury returned its verdicts finding bar owner Beleal Garcia-Gonzalez, 34, of all three counts of sex trafficking alleged in the indictment as well as conspiracy to harbor aliens and six counts of harboring aliens, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
Garcia-Gonzalez, of Mission Texas, was convicted after a three-day-trial during which Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigation (ICE-HSI) agents testified they learned in January 2010 that underage undocumented aliens were being forced to work at a bar and were being prostituted by the bar’s owner, Garcia-Gonzalez. The investigation resulted in agents finding three minors, a 17-year-old, a 15-year-old and a 14-year-old working at the bar and being prostituted by Garcia-Gonzalez.
Each of the minors testified during trial that while in Honduras they were promised a job in the United States working at a restaurant making $700 a week. However, once they arrived in the United States, they found out that they would be working at the bar that Garcia-Gonzalez owned making $120 a week, much of which was taken to pay the smuggling fees of $4,500 each owed to Garcia-Gonzalez. The minor victims testified that Garcia-Gonzalez explained to them they could make $3.00 for every beer that a customer bought them and would make even more money if they had sex with customers because they would be able to keep whatever money they decided to charge the customer for sex less $50 to be paid to him.
After the minors began working at the bar, they realized they were not making any money because Garcia-Gonzalez never paid them. Needing money, they turned to the other option that Garcia-Gonzalez had offered - prostitution. One minor testified she had been with men on six different occasions for which she was paid for having sex. A co-defendant, Cesar Enrique Sarmiento-Mendoza, who pleaded guilty prior to trial to sex trafficking, testified that on one occasion, while Garcia-Gonzalez was in Mexico, Garcia-Gonzalez called him to tell him to pick up and transport two of the girls to his house so that two customers could take the girls out. Sarmiento-Mendoza testified he picked up the minors and received the money from the customers for these girls to engage in sex. Another minor testified that on one occasion a customer paid $300 to have sex with her, however, she did not leave with him. Garcia-Gonzalez was upset by her refusal. She also testified that although she never left with customers, while at the bar, customers would grope her while she drank beer with them.
The jury deliberated only briefly before returning their guilty verdicts which were accepted by United States District Court Judge Randy Crane who presided over the trial. Judge Crane has set sentencing for Dec. 9, 2010. Garcia-Gonzalez faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment on each of the sex trafficking convictions and up to 10 years imprisonment on the other counts of conviction as well as substantial fines.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Ann Leo with the assistance of Assistant United States Attorney Anibal Alaniz.
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