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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Edinburg Couple Convicted in Sex Trafficking of Minors Conspiracy

McALLEN, Texas – An Edinburg couple has been convicted for their roles in a sex trafficking of minors conspiracy in which two minor females engaged in commercial sex acts, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

 

Abelardo Gomez, 37, and his girlfriend Cerena Ortiz, 25, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit sex trafficking of minors.

 

On March 25, 2016, Gomez drove to Louisiana to pick up two minor females, ages 14 and 15, and transported them back to a residence in Edinburg he shared with Ortiz. According to admissions made in connection with their guilty pleas, Gomez and Ortiz took revealing photographs of the minor females posing in a lascivious manner. The photos were then used to create advertisements on backpage.com promoting the prostitution of the minors.

 

Gomez and Ortiz admitted that during the two-week-period the females resided with them, the minors engaged in commercial sex acts with several adult males in the Edinburg residence, in motel rooms and in a vehicle belonging to Gomez. Eventually, on April 7, 2016, Gomez and Ortiz abandoned the minors at a local convenience store. The girls called 911 and reported the incident to local authorities.

 

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane accepted the pleas today and has set sentencing for May 16, 2017. At that time, Gomez and Ortiz face up to life in federal prison.

 

The FBI conducted the investigation along with the Edinburg Police Department.

 

This case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Benavides, was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Component(s): 
Updated March 1, 2017