WASHINGTON – Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Rena J. Comisac, U.S. Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd of the District of South Carolina, and U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert of the Western District of North Carolina, announced that Jesus Perez-Laguna, 36, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Columbia, S.C., for his role in a multi-state sex trafficking ring involving at least one minor. Perez-Laguna is one of three defendants named in a superseding indictment filed in Columbia last month following a federal sex trafficking investigation, and he pled guilty to three counts of a multi-count indictment charging him and others with organized sex trafficking. Perez-Laguna also pleaded guilty to a single-count information charging him with sex trafficking of a child in the Western District of North Carolina.
During his guilty plea hearing, Perez-Laguna admitted that he conspired with others to knowingly transport a 14-year-old girl across the border between the United States and Mexico and the border between North Carolina and South Carolina in order for the minor to engage in prostitution. Additionally, Perez-Laguna admitted that he harbored illegal aliens for the purpose of prostitution.
“Through this guilty plea, the defendant has been held to answer for exploiting a teenage girl. The Department of Justice will work tirelessly to rescue victims of human trafficking and ensure that those who engage in this deplorable conduct are brought to justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Rena J. Comisac.
“The Justice Department takes these charges very seriously and is committed to prosecuting those who exploit young women in this manner,” added U.S. Attorney Reginald I. Lloyd.
“The exploitation of vulnerable women and children is intolerable in a civilized society. Sexual predators who violate federal law will be dealt with severely,” said U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert.
Perez-Laguna’s co-defendant, Ciro Bustos-Rosales, pleaded guilty to related charges on Sept. 5, 2007. A third co-defendant, Guadalupe Reyes-Rivera, a.k.a. “Mama Martina,” is a fugitive.
Human trafficking prosecutions are a top priority of the Department of Justice. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court.
The case was investigated by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and investigators with the Columbia (S.C.) Police Department. This case is being jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark C. Moore and Tara L. McGregor of the District of South Carolina, Kimlani M. Ford and Kenneth M. Smith of the Western District of North Carolina, and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Ryan R. McKinstry.