Family members arrested for sex trafficking
HOUSTON – Four Houston-area residents have been charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to do so, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Maria Botello, 54, her son - Edgar Botello, 28, her nephew - Arian Botello, 23 and her daughter - Yudy Lucatero, 31, are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
The criminal complaint, filed March 30, alleges that from 2007 to 2020, the family members coerced waitresses working at the Houston bar Puerto Alegre to engage in commercial sex acts. The victims allegedly included adults and at least one minor.
The charges allege Maria Botello coordinated “dates” with clients who paid $70 for every 15 minutes with the girls. Edgar and Arian Botello were the enforcers who used weapons, threats and intimidation to keep the victims compliant, according to the complaint. The investigation also revealed Lucatero and Maria Botello discussed the rules and procedures in relation to the sex trafficking.
Authorities ultimately identified another victim who was brought to the United States specifically to work at Puerto Alegre, according to the allegations. While there, she was allegedly forced to engage in commercial sex. The charges allege she was only 17 at the time.
If convicted, the family members each face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) initiated the investigation with the assistance of the Houston Police Department (HPD) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Public cooperation is critical in the successful investigation of suspected human trafficking. Anyone victimized by suspected traffickers, or who has information about potential victims, may contact TABC’s Victims Services office at 1-713-494-5869 to make a report. Spanish speakers may contact HSI at 1-866-347-2423.
TABC, HPD and HSI are part of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) along with the FBI, Texas Attorney General’s Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Department of Labor (DOL), DOL – Wage and Hour Division, Department of State, Texas Department of Public Safety, Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General (OIG), Social Security Administration – OIG and Sheriff’s Offices in Harris and Montgomery counties in coordination with District Attorney’s offices in Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend Counties.
Established in 2004, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston formed HTRA to combine resources with federal, state and local enforcement agencies and prosecutors, as well as non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those that the traffickers victimized. Since its inception, HTRA has been recognized as both a national and international model in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking and prosecuting those engaged in trafficking offenses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Zack is prosecuting the case.
A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.