Department of Justice Seal



JANUARY 15, 1999

(202) 514-0008


TDD (202) 514-1888


Washington, D.C.- - The lead defendant in a forced prostitution case pleaded guilty today to charges that he and fifteen others lured women from Mexico and Florida with promises of good jobs and better lives, only to force them into prostitution and hold them as sexual slaves in brothel houses in Florida and the Carolinas, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida announced today. An indictment, filed last April in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, charged Rogerio Franciso Cadena with one count alleging conspiracy to violate the civil rights of the victims and another count alleging use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence.

"Whether in forced prostitution, in sweatshop factories, or in the fields, modern-day slavery will not be tolerated," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee, who is the head of the National Worker Exploitation Task Force, an interagency group formed last spring at the direction of Attorney General Janet Reno to combat involuntary servitude and other violent forms of worker abuse. "As we enter the 21st century, we must redouble our efforts against these barbaric practices."

Cadena is the uncle and one of the five leaders of the Cadena family from Veracruz, Mexico, who are alleged to have smuggled young Mexican females into the United States

to work in brothels. The Cadena family operated an alien smuggling business in Mexico and houses of prostitution in Florida. The young Mexican girls were transported from Vera Cruz, Mexico, through Matamoros, Mexico to Brownsville, Texas.

"This case demonstrates the effectiveness of federal civil rights laws designed to punish those who today, 135 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, would conspire to exploit and abuse others under the yoke of slavery," said Tom Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. "We commend the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office in investigating and uncovering this network of terror, exploitation and subjugation."

The girls were eventually taken to the Cadenas' houses in Fort Pierce, Okeechobee, Avon Park, Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Fort Myers, Florida. At the houses the girls were instructed to work as prostitutes until they paid the Cadena family their smuggling fee. In some cases, the Mexican girls were locked in a room with no windows and given no money for expenses. Beatings and threats of reprisals against their families in Mexico were used to force the girls into prostitution in order to pay their approximately $2,000 smuggling fee. Several women who attempted to escape were hunted down and returned to the brothels, where they were punished by beatings and confinement. Several of the Mexican females were underage. Cadena was arrested by FBI and Border Patrol agents outside of an operating brothel in Fort Myers, Florida on February 20, 1998.

Cadena and fifteen others were charged in count one of the indictment with participating in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of their victims by denying them their right to be free from involuntary servitude, or slavery, under the Thirteenth Amendment. Count one carries a potential sentence of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Cadena also pled guilty to count forty-nine of the indictment, charging the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. Count forty-nine carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of five years in prison.

Six others have pleaded guilty to conspiracy against rights in this case, admitting that they assisted Cadena and the other family members in the operation of the brothels. A seventh man charged in the indictment, Procopio Lopez Herrera, is in jail in Orange County, Florida, facing second degree murder charges stemming from a shooting which occurred in one of the Cadena brothel houses. Six members of the Cadena family charged in the indictment remain at large. The fugitives are Juan Luis Cadena, Carmen Cadena, Rafael Alberto Cadena, Abel Cadena, Antonio Sosa, and Patricio Sosa.

The Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida commended the investigative work of the U.S. Border Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which continue to investigate the case and are seeking the fugitives charged. This case was prosecuted jointly by the Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Pierce Division.

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