Justice Department Informs City of Lexington and Lexington Police Department That Automatically Jailing People for Unpaid Fines Violates Constitution
The Department of Justice announced today that Severiano Martinez-Rojas, also known as “Negro” and “Gato,” of Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico, has pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of sex trafficking and admitted his participation in the sex trafficking of three victims.
“The defendants preyed on vulnerable young women, placing them in fear and forcing them to sell their bodies to complete strangers all so the defendants could make money,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Today’s conviction demonstrates the Civil Rights Division’s unwavering commitment to bringing human traffickers to justice and the significant impact of our U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative, aimed at dismantling transnational trafficking organizations.”
“This defendant’s guilty plea represents another success in this District’s sustained commitment to bilateral anti-trafficking coordination with our Mexican Federal law enforcement counterparts in locating and bringing to justice traffickers who lure victims into prostitution with false promises of a better life and then seek to evade accountability for their crimes,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia. “Human trafficking remains a top priority of this office, and we will continue to aggressively target and prosecute these horrific crimes.”
“Human Trafficking is often transnational in nature and, as a result, U.S. law enforcement, through its legal attaches and U.S. embassies, count on its partnerships abroad to ensure that individuals such as Martinez-Rojas are not afforded a sanctuary from justice,” said Special Agent in Charge David J. LeValley of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “This case illustrates the FBI’s commitment toward identifying, apprehending, and repatriating to the U.S. those involved in these types of human trafficking rings that cross international borders.”
“Human trafficking is quite simply, a form of modern-day slavery, and the sexual abuse of the victims in this particular case only adds to the heinous nature of the crime,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick Annan of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “Over the past two years HSI has rescued nearly 1,000 trafficking victims nationwide with many of them often hidden in plain sight. HSI will continue our relentless pursuit to investigate and seek prosecution of criminal traffickers while ensuring the victims of this terrible crime are rescued and get the care they need.”
According to the charges and other information presented in court, Martinez-Rojas and his co-defendants used false promises of love, legitimate work and a better life to induce three women to unlawfully enter the United States between 2006 and 2008. Once the women arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, the defendants used violence, threats, intimidation, and other means to compel the young women to engage in prostitution in Georgia and Alabama for the defendants’ profit. The defendants operated a high volume, low cost business, requiring the women to have sex with multiple men a night, sometimes as many as 20 men.
Martinez-Rojas was indicted on May 14, 2013, but remained a fugitive until his arrest in Mexico as part of a coordinated bilateral law enforcement action in November 2015. He is the fourth member of an Atlanta-based Mexican sex trafficking ring convicted for their roles in compelling young women from Mexico and Guatemala to engage in prostitution. A date for sentencing has not yet been determined.
Co-defendants Arturo Rojas-Coyotl, also known as “Taco” and “Jonathan,” and Odilon Martinez-Rojas, also known as “Chino” and “Saul,” pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and alien harboring in October 2014 and were sentenced on January 27, 2015, to prison terms of 16 years and 21 years and 10 months, respectively. The defendants were also ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution to the victims. A third co-defendant, Daniel Garcia-Tepal, also pleaded guilty to alien harboring on April 4, 2014, and received a sentence of time served.
Since 2009, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative to more effectively dismantle human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bring human traffickers to justice, restore the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims, and reunite victims with their children. These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of over 170 defendants in multiple cases in Georgia, New York, Florida, and Texas, in addition to numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard S. Moultrie, Jr., of the Northern District of Georgia, and Deputy Director Benjamin J. Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.