Two Brothers Extradited to the United States From Mexico to Face Sex Trafficking Charges
Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas and Rosalio Melendez-Rojas were extradited to the United States yesterday and arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on an 18-count indictment charging them variously with sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling and related offenses. Judge Pollak entered a permanent order of detention with leave for the defendants to present bail packages at a later date. The defendants were arrested in February 2018 in Mexico following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Mexico City, HSI New York and the Mexican Federal Police. The defendants are charged together with three co-defendants who were previously arrested in the United States.
The extradition and charges were announced by Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, HSI New York.
“With this successful extradition, we demonstrate our resolve to prosecute those who profit from the forced sexual servitude of vulnerable women and girls, such as the Melendez-Rojas sex-trafficking network,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.
“These brothers were flown thousands of miles to faces charges for their role in the ‘family business’ of exploiting and trafficking young women purely for profit, using intimidation and abuse to force their victims to participate in sexual acts against their will,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “The number of times women were victimized to support their criminal empire is reprehensible. The safety and well-being of the victim comes first and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in ensuring these criminal organizations cease to victimize for revenue.”
As alleged in the second superseding indictment and other court filings, between 2006 and July 2017, Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas and his brother Rosalio Melendez-Rojas, together with other relatives, illegally smuggled young women and girls from Mexico into the United States, where they were forced to work as prostitutes in New York City and elsewhere. The victims of this sex trafficking organization are identified in the indictment as Jane Does #1 through 6. The defendants are also charged with conspiring to launder money in connection with the illicit proceeds of their sex-trafficking and prostitution enterprise.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the sex-trafficking related charges, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Mr. Donoghue commended HSI New York’s Trafficking in Persons Unit for leading the investigation of the Melendez-Rojas Trafficking Organization; thanked the HSI Mexico City Attaché Office, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the State Department, Interpol, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for their assistance; and praised the government of Mexico for its role in advancing bilateral anti-trafficking enforcement efforts. Mr. Donoghue also acknowledged the non-governmental victim service providers and advocates for their dedicated efforts to restore and improve the lives of survivors of trafficking and their families.
The investigation, prosecution, bilateral enforcement action and extradition of the defendants apprehended in Mexico were coordinated through the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative. 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 extraditions in this case are also the latest development in the Eastern District of New York’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program, which has to date indicted more than 80 defendants for sex trafficking; assisted more than 150 victims, including over 40 minors, reunited 19 victims’ children with their mothers, and secured restitution orders of over $4 million on behalf of trafficking victims.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl, Erin E. Argo and Monica K. Castro are in charge of the prosecution.
The New Defendants:
JOSE OSVALDO MELENDEZ-ROJAS
ROSALIO MELENDEZ-ROJAS (also known as “Leonel, “Wacho” and “El Guacho”)
Defendants Previously Arrested:
FRANCISCO MELENDEZ-PEREZ (also known as “Paco” and “el Mojarra”)
ABEL ROMERO-MELENDEZ (also known as “La Borrega” and “Borrego”)
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-434 (ARR)