Spanish Fugitive Pleads Guilty in Connection with Prostitution Enterprise Operated Out of Florida Hotel
Highly Profitable Scheme Prostituted Foreign Nationals and South Florida Residents
Miguel A. Hernandez, 50, of Miami Beach, Florida, pleaded guilty today to charges arising from his operation of an enterprise that profited from the prostitution of multiple women, including foreign nationals and Miami-area residents, for his financial gain.
Hernandez pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the Southern District of Florida to four counts of using a facility of interstate commerce to promote an unlawful activity and four counts of importing and attempting to import an alien for prostitution purposes.
According to documents filed in the case and evidence presented in court during the plea hearing, Hernandez began operating a highly profitable prostitution enterprise known as “International Playmates” from a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2010. Hernandez and others, including his brother and co-defendant, Eduardo Hernandez, recruited many of the women who worked for him from other countries, including Spain, Colombia, Venezuela and other Central and Latin American countries. To facilitate the operation, Hernandez and his associates reserved and paid for plane tickets for foreign nationals to enter the United States, completed immigration paperwork, coached foreign nationals on what to say to customs officials when entering the United States and picked foreign nationals up at the airport. Hernandez openly advertised his business on the Internet and deposited the cash proceeds into multiple bank accounts.
As part of Hernandez’s enterprise, he engaged numerous individuals, including overseas recruiters to identify more women; drivers to transport women to dates with prostitution clients; a website technician to advertise the enterprise’s services; various female associates to help manage the enterprise; and his brother and co-defendant, Eduardo Hernandez to aid in operation of the scheme. Eduardo Hernandez previously pleaded guilty for his role in the enterprise on May 3, 2016.
Miguel Hernandez had previously been convicted and sentenced to six years’ confinement in Spain for immigration fraud offenses in violation of Spanish law, but had fled to the United States before serving his sentence. According to documents filed in the case and evidence presented in court, Hernandez used physical force on at least two occasions against two different women, both Spanish nationals, and prostituted at least three minors for his profit.
“The ACTeam Initiative – including a Phase I Pilot Team in the Southern District of Florida – has worked to multiply the efforts of the federal government by convening various agencies and marshalling resources to more effectively combat human trafficking and related crimes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This prosecution is one of many in which the ACTeam initiative has helped vindicate the rights of the vulnerable women and girls that Hernandez and his co-conspirators exploited for their profit.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to supporting the ACTeam Initiative, a multi-agency approach aimed at building human trafficking enforcement and investigate efforts, in order to combat the illicit enterprises and prosecute the traffickers,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida.
“Human smuggling and trafficking are a top priority of ICE-HSI to disrupt and dismantle these transnational criminal organizations,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert C. Hutchinson of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami. “We work very closely with our law enforcement and non-governmental organization partners with great success to protect victims such as demonstrated in this investigation.”
“Diplomatic Security’s global presence enables our agency to serve as a liaison between U.S. and foreign law enforcement counterparts assisting both in their efforts to stop human trafficking,” said Director Bill A. Miller of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. “Today’s conviction demonstrates how Diplomatic Security’s placement around the world can stem the tide of human trafficking and target the criminals who prey on these victims.”
At a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 13, 2016, Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million.
The case was investigated by HSI and the Diplomatic Security Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Olivia S. Choe of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Matthew T. Grady of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
The Southern District of Florida is one of six Phase I Pilot Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams (ACTeams) convened through an interagency collaboration of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor to develop high-impact federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud and coercion.