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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Man Who Entered U.S. Illegally Charged With Sex Trafficking And Stalking

NEWARK, N.J. – A man who entered the United States from Honduras illegally appeared today in federal court on charges of sex trafficking and stalking, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Hermen Zuniga Castro, 30, a/k/a “Helmer Zuniga,” “Herman Zuniga,” and “Helmer Mendoza,” of Honduras, was charged by criminal complaint for attempted sex trafficking and stalking. He appeared in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on July 11, 2013, where he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) following his release from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons after being incarcerated for illegal entry after deportation. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hammer in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In June 2007, Zuniga began stalking and threatening the victim – identified in court papers only as “E.M.,” – while they were both living in Honduras. In November 2007, E.M. left Honduras and was smuggled into the United States by Zuniga, fearing he would kill her family, including her son. For the next two years, Zuniga forced the victim to work as a housekeeper and as a prostitute in Texas. During this time, Zuniga also terrorized the victim by repeatedly raping, beating, and threatening her. Zuniga told the victim that his ultimate plan was to take her to Houston to work as a prostitute. In October 2009, Zuniga branded the victim by carving the letter “H” into the left side of her abdomen with a knife.

The victim was finally rescued in November 2009, when Zuniga Castro was arrested for a traffic violation in Cleburne, Texas, and subsequently charged with illegal re-entry in the Northern District of Texas. He was sentenced to 14 months in prison and in February 2011 was deported to Honduras.

Shortly after arriving back in Honduras, Zuniga contacted the victim’s family and eventually obtained the victim’s telephone number in the United States. On one occasion, the victim received a telephone call from her mother with Zuniga standing next to her mother, threatening to kill the victim if she did not answer his telephone calls. Soon afterward, the victim began received threatening telephone calls from Zuniga on a daily basis. During the calls, he would threaten to come to the United States, transport the victim to Houston, where he would force her to earn money for him by becoming a prostitute.

In September 2011, Zuniga told the victim that he was en route to New Jersey from Honduras to get her. Early on the morning of Oct. 11, 2011, Zuniga called the victim and told her that he was at Newark Penn Station. He was apprehended by federal agents and arrested.

The count of attempted sex trafficking is punishable by a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum statutory penalty of 15 years in prison. It also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 and a mandatory minimum term of five years of supervised release. The maximum penalty for stalking is five years in prison and a mandatory minimum term of three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Securities Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. McLees, with the investigation leading to today’s charges. Zuniga Castro was ordered detained.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shana W. Chen of the Economic Crimes Unit and Elizabeth M. Harris of the OC/Gangs Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Zuniga Complaint

Updated August 21, 2015