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Friday, July 18, 2008
(202) 514-2007
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Mexican National Sentenced for Role in Sex-Trafficking Ring in the Carolinas

WASHINGTON - Jesus Perez-Laguna, a citizen of Mexico, was sentenced on July 17, 2008, in federal court in Columbia, S.C., on charges stemming from a sex trafficking ring involving at least one teenage girl. Perez-Laguna was sentenced to over 14 years imprisonment and ordered to pay $52,500 in restitution to his victims. After his release from prison, Perez-Laguna will be on federal supervised release for the rest of his life.

As a condition of supervised release, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson ordered that Perez-Laguna be surrendered to immigration officials for deportation proceedings and further ordered that Perez-Laguna not return to the United States while on supervised release.

In April, Perez-Laguna’s co-defendant, Ciro Bustos-Rosales, was sentenced to 70 months in prison, ordered to pay restitution, and ordered to comply with similar terms and conditions of release as those included in Perez-Laguna’s sentence.

During their guilty plea hearings in September 2007, both men admitted that they were involved with transporting 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, both men admitted that they harbored illegal aliens for the purpose of prostitution.

"Sex traffickers prey on young girls and vulnerable women who are brought into the United States, kept far from home, and forced into prostitution," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Court’s sentence demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to prosecuting those who exploited this young victim, who hopefully can now move on to a better life."

"This is a fitting end to a disturbing case. Mr. Perez-Laguna had no regard whatsoever for the young girls he enslaved and victimized," stated W. Walter Wilkins, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. "I applaud the dedication and hard work of the investigative agents who exposed this ring and the prosecutors who ensured the convictions."

"Sex traffickers represent one of the most disturbing segments of organized criminal activity,".said Gretchen C.F. Shappert, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. "The damage they cause to their victims is incalculable. We are grateful to our colleagues in state and federal law enforcement who have brought these predators to justice."

"Perez-Laguna and Bustos Rosales ruthlessly stole the innocence of young girls and profited from their exploitation," said Kenneth Smith, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Investigations in Atlanta. "Bringing these criminals to justice would not have been possible without cooperation among international, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies."

Perez-Laguna and Bustos-Rosales are two of three defendants indicted in August 2007 by a federal grand jury in Columbia following a federal sex trafficking investigation. The third co-defendant, Guadalupe Reyes-Rivera, also known as "Mama Martina," is a fugitive.

The case was investigated by Special Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigators with the Columbia Police Department. Because the illegal activities uncovered in this investigation involved incidents in both South Carolina and North Carolina, cases related to this investigation were jointly prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark C. Moore and Tara L. McGregor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Ryan McKinstry, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimlani M. Ford and Kenneth M. Smith from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.