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Press Release

Four Members of Queens-Based Family Prostitution Business Convicted of Sex Trafficking and Other Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York

A federal jury in Brooklyn today returned guilty verdicts on all counts of an indictment charging Luz Elvira Cardona, Roberto Cesar Cid Dominguez, Blanca Hernandez Morales, and Jose Facundo Zarate Morales, who were members of the Queens-based Cid-Hernandez Sex Trafficking Organization, with transportation of minors, sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion, promotion of prostitution, use of interstate facilities to commit bribery and related conspiracy counts.  The verdict followed a four-week, trial before United States District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall. When sentenced, the defendants each face up to life in prison, except for Cid Dominguez, who faces up to 40 years in prison. 

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the verdict.

“Today’s verdict is a milestone in the dismantling of a sex trafficking organization that exploited young women and minors, it is justice for the vulnerable victims who suffered so much pain and suffering, and it is a reckoning for the perpetrators who will soon learn the consequences for their deplorable crimes,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “It is my hope that the convictions bring some measure of solace to the victims on their paths to healing.”

Mr. Peace thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, Homeland Security Investigations, New York, the New York City Police Department, and the Putnam County Sherriff’s Office for their outstanding work on the case.

As proven at trial, since approximately 2002, the defendants, all of whom are related by blood or common-law marriage, used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause young women and minor girls from Mexico to engage in prostitution in the United States. Members of the organization pressured the victims, including two minor victims, to travel to the United States with false promises of employment and a better life. When the young girls arrived in New York, they were forced by the defendants to work in prostitution.

During the trial, a victim testified that she was 15 years-old and living in Mexico in 2007 when Cardona, her aunt, offered to pay travel expenses to New York City where the teen could work as a cleaner.  The victim did not know that Cardona, along with her partner Zarate Morales, his mother Hernandez Morales, and her partner Cid Dominguez, were operating a prostitution business.  After the victim arrived in Queens, Cardona and Zarate Morales brokered a deal with a client to sell her virginity and thereafter she was forced to engage in commercial sex with 20 or more men daily. 

Although the Cid-Hernandez Sex Trafficking Organization was based in Queens, young women and minor girls were transported to prostitution clients throughout New York State and Connecticut. The organization controlled “routes,” which were comprised of contact lists of potential clients in specific areas and employed individuals who served as drivers.

Cid Dominguez also bribed Village of Brewster Police Officer Wayne Peiffer with free sexual services to ensure the organization’s protection from law enforcement in his jurisdiction.  Peiffer pleaded guilty in April 2022 to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery.  Peiffer is awaiting sentencing.

                        The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Lauren Elbert, Gillian Kassner, Rachel Shanies and Nicholas Moscow are in charge of the prosecution with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Ryan Costley.

The Defendants:

LUZ ELVIRA CARDONA (also known as “Lucy”)
Age:  35
Queens, New York

Age:  60
Queens, New York

BLANCA HERNANDEZ MORALES (also known as “Nancy,” “Maria Elena,” and “Malena”)
Age:  53
Queens, New York

JOSE FACUNDO ZARATE MORALES (also known as “El Guero”)
Age:  34
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-622 (LDH)

Updated October 19, 2023

Human Trafficking