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Press Release

Leader Of International Sex Trafficking Organization Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To Life In Prison

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

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ISAIAS FLORES-MENDEZ, 42, of Queens, New York, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to life in prison in connection with his leadership of a long-running sex trafficking conspiracy that employed force, fraud, and coercion to sell young women for sex against their wills. FLORES-MENDEZ was also ordered to forfeit approximately $1.7 million, and to pay $84,000 in restitution to a victim of his crime. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The defendant viciously robbed the victims in this case of their freedom, their dignity, and their fundamental human rights. Although the victims of the defendant’s crimes will never be made whole, his prosecution and today’s sentence hopefully signal to them and everyone else that such atrocities cannot be tolerated in our society and will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.”

In sentencing FLORES-MENDEZ Judge Forrest said: “On behalf of our system of justice I do want to say to the victims of this crime who are not here because of their undocumented status, because of their fear . . . I do know that no sentence can return to the victims that which has been so brutally taken from them . . . but today is a day that perhaps these victims have been waiting for – a day when our society would understand, and listen to what was happening to them, and see that this defendant, who committed such awful crimes using them, would be brought to justice and is brought to justice. The harm done to those victims is today recognized for what it is in all of its horror. For that which was taken from these women and cannot be returned by any sentence, the defendant is here today to be sentenced and to be brought to justice.”

According to the Indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at various proceedings in this case, including today’s sentencing:

Since at least 1999, when he was first arrested for promoting prostitution, FLORES-MENDEZ has been sexually exploiting vulnerable women for his own financial gain. His predatory crimes have ranged in scope over the years.

He used violence and threats of violence to personally force at least one young woman (“Victim-1”) to engage in prostitution against her will. At the age of 17, Victim-1 was romanced by FLORES-MENDEZ, and lured to the U.S. with the promise of a better life for her and her baby. Once in New York, Victim-1 was made to sleep on a floor with her child, was repeatedly beaten, and was verbally abused on a regular basis by FLORES-MENDEZ, who sexually enslaved Victim-1 and made her work as a prostitute against her will for his own financial gain. When she tried to resist, she was beaten and abused. On one such occasion, FLORES-MENDEZ pushed her and her young child outside on a cold winter night, locked the door, and refused to let her back in. Afraid that her baby would die, Victim-1 succumbed to FLORES-MENDEZ’s demands that she continue to be sold for sex. After she escaped, FLORES-MENDEZ and his brother Bonifacio Flores-Mendez continued to torment her, on one occasion trying to run her over with his car.

FLORES-MENDEZ also used threats of violence to force another woman (“Victim-A”) to help teach Victim-1 how to handle customers, telling Victim-A that he would “break her in half” if she didn’t comply.

In addition to his direct sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, FLORES-MENDEZ also owned and operated a sprawling network of brothels in and around New York City that sexually exploited at least five women per day, each of whom was required to have sex with up to 20 customers per day under abhorrent conditions. Many of the victims of this sex trafficking-prostitution enterprise were forced to engage in prostitution against their wills.

Sixteen defendants in this case, including Bonifacio Flores-Mendez, have pled guilty, and one has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. All but four defendants have been sentenced. The defendants who have pled to date have agreed to forfeit, in total, more than $1.7 million.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Amanda Kramer and Rebecca Mermelstein are in charge of the prosecution.

Updated May 13, 2015

Press Release Number: 14-143