Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Thursday, December 18, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Member of Human Trafficking Ring Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking Charges

WASHINGTON - Francisco Cortes-Meza, 25, a/k/a "Paco", of Mexico, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to sex trafficking offenses involving a young Mexican woman.

According to the information presented in court, during winter 2007, Francisco Cortes-Meza met a 22-year-old Mexican national in Mexico, pursued her romantically, promised her a better life in the U.S., and persuaded her to travel to Atlanta, Ga. All the while his intent was to place her in prostitution in a human trafficking ring in the Atlanta area.  Francisco Cortes-Meza smuggled the victim into the United States and transported her to a house in Norcross, Ga.  A few days after her arrival, he required her to begin engaging in prostitution.  The victim was then required to provide him with the money that she was paid for commercial sex.  He controlled the victim’s daily life and did not allow her to go places without his permission.  When the victim stated that she did not wish to engage in prostitution, he became angry, often physically assaulting her. 

"Human trafficking occurs in hidden corners across the country," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The horrors faced by this young victim and thousands of others like her are heartbreaking. The Department is committed to enforcing laws that put traffickers behind bars."

"Human trafficking violates basic human rights and will not be tolerated," said David E. Nahmias, U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Georgia. "Compelling women by force, fraud or coercion, or girls under the age of 18, to engage in commercial sex acts is a serious violation of federal law. The victimization of the young women in this case was unfortunately made easier by their illegal status, unfamiliarity with U.S. laws, and fear of law enforcement instilled in them by the traffickers. Federal laws protect all victims of such heinous crimes, whether or not they are United States citizens. No victim should fear coming forward to report illegal activity and criminal abuse."

Francisco Cortes-Meza pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force and coercion.  This offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years in federal prison. A sentencing is yet to be scheduled.

The prosecution of human trafficking offenses is a top priority of the Justice Department. In the last seven fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, has increased by nearly seven-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years. In fiscal year 2007, the Department obtained a record number of convictions in human trafficking prosecutions.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This case is being prosecuted by Corey Steinberg, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and Karima Maloney, Trial Attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.