Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, three brothers were sentenced to prison terms following their pleas of guilty to sex trafficking charges. Jorge Estrada-Tepal and Victor Leonel Estrada-Tepal were each sentenced to 17½ years of imprisonment to be followed by five years of supervised release, and Ricardo Estrada-Tepal was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment to be followed by five years of supervised release. The defendants were also ordered to pay, jointly and severally, $1,033,336 in restitution to the victims.
The defendants, who are Mexican nationals, transported Mexican females from Mexico to the United States illegally, forcing them to work as prostitutes in New York City and elsewhere. They were arrested in Queens, New York, in January 2014 and pled guilty to trafficking charges in January 2015. Today’s sentences are the latest in the Office’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program, which has to date indicted over 65 defendants in sex trafficking cases and provided assistance to over 130 victims, including 36 minors.
The sentences were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Glenn Sorge, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York.
“The lengthy sentences imposed today reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ crimes and underscore our Office’s resolve to seek justice for their victims,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “The defendants have now been held to account for the daily horrors they inflicted on their victims for years. We hope that these sentences bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families.” Mr. Capers thanked HSI and other entities that assisted with the successful prosecution of this case.
“The defendants received sentences commensurate with their heinous crimes, abusing and exploiting innocent victims to satisfy their own greed,” said Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge of HSI New York. “It is a priority of HSI to rescue and assist victims of human trafficking while making every effort to destroy these international criminal syndicates that show little respect for basic human rights.”
The sex trafficking involved at least five victims (identified as Jane Does 1 through 5), and the defendants used various means to cause these women to work in prostitution, including threats of violence, assaults, and psychological coercion. During the guilty plea proceedings in January 2015, defendant Jorge Estrada-Tepal admitted that, starting in 2007, he and his brothers entered into a conspiracy to transport women from Mexico to Queens to engage in prostitution and that threats of force were used against the victims. Ricardo Estrada-Tepal admitted that he and his brothers did not tell the women the truth about why they were coming to the United States. Victor Leonel Estrada-Tepal admitted that he agreed with his brothers to force women to work in prostitution, including Victor’s wife, Jane Doe 4, who was 17 years old at the time he brought her from Mexico to Queens.
Jane Doe 1 was primarily trafficked by her husband, the defendant Jorge Estrada-Tepal (“Jorge”). After marrying in Mexico, Jorge forced Jane Doe 1 to work in prostitution in Mexico. After being smuggled into the United States, Jane Doe 1 was required to work in prostitution almost daily for a period of approximately four years. Jorge used a variety of means to force Jane Doe 1 to work, including physical assaults and threats. Jane Doe 1 was required to give Jorge all of the money she earned. In addition, Jorge forced Jane Doe 1 to take pills to induce abortions on two occasions even though she wanted to keep her children.
Jane Doe 2 was recruited by the defendant Ricardo Estrada-Tepal (“Ricardo”), who engaged in a romantic relationship with her, despite already being in a relationship with another victim in the case, Jane Doe 3. After becoming involved with Ricardo in Mexico, Jane Doe 2 was forced into prostitution and then smuggled into the United States. In Queens, Jane Doe 2 resided with defendant Victor Leonel Estrada-Tepal, who also pressured her to work in prostitution by demanding repayment of Jane Doe 2’s smuggling debt. Ricardo also threatened to harm Jane Doe 2’s family if she did not work in prostitution. Jane Doe 2 worked in prostitution for approximately two months before she was able to escape. During that time, Ricardo raped Jane Doe 2, threatened her, and forced her to give him all of her earnings.
Jane Doe 3 was recruited by the defendant Ricardo Estrada-Tepal (“Ricardo”), who was engaged in a romantic relationship with her. Ricardo pressured her into working in prostitution, in part by verbally abusing and physically assaulting her. She worked in prostitution in Mexico for several years before becoming pregnant with Ricardo’s child in 2011. After the birth of her child, Ricardo pressured Jane Doe 3 to move to the United States, assuring her that she would be able to work in a restaurant. She was smuggled into the United States in April 2013 and lived in Queens with Ricardo. Shortly after her arrival, Ricardo informed Jane Doe 3 that she had to start working in prostitution. When she balked, Ricardo threatened to hit her. Out of fear, Jane Doe 3 began working in prostitution until she was located by HSI agents at the time of the defendants’ arrests in January 2014. During the periods of time Jane Doe 3 worked in prostitution, Ricardo took virtually all of the money that she earned.
Jane Doe 4 was a minor when she was trafficked to the United States by her husband, Victor Leonel Estrada-Tepal. After her arrival in the United States, Jane Doe 4 worked as a prostitute and also provided information about how to work as a prostitute to other victims of the Estrada-Tepal brothers.
Jane Doe 5 was recruited in Mexico to work in prostitution by the defendants’ brother, Juan Carlos Estrada-Tepal (“Juan Carlos”), with whom Jane Doe 5 became romantically involved in approximately 2009, when Jane Doe 5 was 19. Subsequently, Juan Carlos told Jane Doe 5 that she had to start working in prostitution, telling her that his brothers’ women worked as prostitutes, and they made more money than she did. Jane Doe 5 felt that she had no choice because Juan Carlos was violent. She then worked in prostitution for a period of time in Mexico prior to coming to the United States with Jane Doe 2 in the summer of 2011, at which time she left her son with Juan Carlos in Mexico. After Jane Doe 5’s arrival in the United States, she worked in prostitution for approximately two years. During this time, she gave birth to Juan Carlos’s daughter, after which she was instructed to send her daughter to Mexico to live with Juan Carlos. She ultimately sent her daughter to Mexico out of fear that refusing to do so would cause her never to see her son again. Thereafter, Juan Carlos threatened Jane Doe 5 that she would not be able to see her children again if she did not continue working in prostitution and sending him money.
Since 2009, the Department of Justice and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative aimed at strengthening high-impact prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law. The initiative is aimed at dismantling human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing human traffickers to justice, reuniting victims with their children, and restoring the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims held under the trafficking networks’ control. These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of over 50 defendants in multiple cases in New York, Georgia, Florida, and Texas since 2009, and numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers.
United States Attorney Capers extended his grateful appreciation to the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for its assistance in the investigation of the case and the Government of Mexico for its assistance in locating and rescuing Jane Doe 5’s children, with whom she was reunited as a result of law enforcement’s efforts in this case. Mr. Capers also thanked the many victim service providers and advocates for their dedicated efforts to restore and improve the lives of survivors of trafficking, in particular, Sanctuary for Families, the Urban Justice Center, Safe Horizon, LifeWay Network, the New York City Bar Justice Center, RestoreNYC, New York Presbyterian - Weill Cornell Medical Center, the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and the Law Offices of Anthony Scarpati.
The sentences were imposed by United States District Judge Margo K. Brodie.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Melody Wells.
VICTOR LEONEL ESTRADA-TEPAL
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. CR-14-105 (MKB)