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WASHINGTON, D.C.– Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. and Marcos Daniel Jiménez, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announced today that a defendant pleaded guilty yesterday in federal District Court in West Palm Beach, Florida to conspiring with others to hold women and girls from Mexico in involuntary servitude.

In April of 1998, the defendant, Hugo Cadena-Sosa, and fourteen others were charged by superseding indictment with conspiring to lure women and girls from Mexico to Florida with promises of good jobs and better lives, and forcing them into prostitution and holding them as sexual slaves in brothel houses in Florida and the Carolinas, during the period from August 1996 until February 1998.

Cadena-Sosa, a fugitive since 1997, was arrested for illegal re-entry on May 14, 2002, taken into custody on his outstanding FBI warrant, and arraigned on the pending federal civil rights charges. Cadena-Sosa is a member of the Cadena family from Veracruz, Mexico, who is alleged to have smuggled young Mexican females into the United States to work in the Cadena's brothel houses in Fort Pierce, Okeechobee, Avon Park, Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Fort Myers, Florida.

As part of his plea agreement, the defendant admitted that the victims were forced to work at the Cadena's brothel houses as prostitutes until they paid the Cadena family a $2,000 smuggling fee. In some cases, the victims were locked in a room with no windows and given no money. The victims were forced into prostitution in order to pay their smuggling fee and were threatened with beatings and reprisal attacks against their families in Mexico. Several victims, many of whom were underage, attempted to escape were hunted down and returned to the brothels, where they were punished by beatings and confinement. Several of the victims were underage.

United States Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez said, "We will not tolerate any abuse of freedom in this community."

"Those who seek to profit from modern-day slavery will be punished," said Ralph F. Boyd Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "The Justice Department is committed to protecting the victims of human trafficking."

The defendant is currently being held in federal custody and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Seven others have pleaded guilty to civil rights conspiracy charges in this case, admitting that they assisted Cadena-Sosa and other family members in the operation of the brothels, and are serving sentences ranging from two and a half to10 years. There remain six members of the Cadena family charged in the superseding indictment who are at large. The fugitives are defendants Juan Luis Cadena, Carmen Cadena, Rafael Alberto Cadena, and Abel Cadena, Antonia Sosa and Patricio Sosa.

The Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida commend the investigative work of the United States Border Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who continue to investigate the case and are seeking to ensure that the fugitives are brought to justice.

This case was prosecuted jointly by the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, and the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Pierce Division.

Individuals can report cases of human trafficking or slavery to the toll-free Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task force complaint line, at 1-888-428-7581. Information about the Department of Justice's anti-trafficking effort can be found at http:/