Cantina owner admits to forcing young girl to engage in commercial sex
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas
McALLEN, Texas – A 65-year-old Mexican woman who legally resided in Mission has admitted to forcing a young girl to engage in commercial sex.
Rita Martinez compelled the underage victim to engage in commercial sex work in a cantina she owned and operated in Mission known as Perez Lounge, Rita’s Lounge and Rita’s Sports Bar.
“Using her cantina as a front, Rita Martinez forced a young migrant girl into sexual acts with Rita’s male patrons,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. “No one should have to endure that kind of treatment. Sometimes it takes time, but we will not give up. We will make sure people like Martinez answer for violating the laws of the United States by preying on the weak and vulnerable members of our society.”
“Human trafficking – particularly trafficking of children – is a reprehensible crime with far reaching consequences. Traffickers degrade human dignity and decimate individual rights while at the same time undermining public safety, border security, economic opportunity, and the rule of law,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department remains committed to prosecuting human traffickers for this heartless exploitation of vulnerable young people and to obtaining restitution on behalf of victims.”
As part of the plea, she acknowledged from the spring of 2005 to the fall of 2006, the 16-year-old Mexican minor lived in Martinez’ home and worked at her bar. Martinez arranged for male patrons of the cantina to take this minor girl from the cantina in order to engage in commercial sex. Martinez profited financially by accepting money from those male patrons. Martinez kept the money and applied it to the cost of the minor victim’s fee for the transportation from Mexico into the United States.
“This case is a reminder of the need for aggressive pursuit of all those who would take advantage of anyone in vulnerable or desperate circumstances,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich Jr. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are dedicated to protecting people from these horrible predators and will do everything we can to bring these perpetrators to justice. We would like to thank the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission (TABC) for their outstanding assistance in this case.”
Genaro Fuentes, 41, Martinez’s son, pleaded guilty Jan. 26 and admitted his role working at the bar and helping to facilitate the commercial sex.
Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane will impose sentencing for Martinez and Fuentes Sept. 7 and July 6, respectively. Martinez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison, while Fuentes could receive a 20-year maximum sentence.
Martinez and Fuentes have been and will remain in custody pending sentencing.
The FBI has led the investigation with assistance from the TABC. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Garcia and Sherri Zack are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
Updated June 30, 2023