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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Harrisonburg Resident Sentenced On Human Trafficking Charge

Elin Coello-Ordonez Previously Admitted To Forcing Young Honduran Woman Into Prostitution

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – A citizen of Honduras who previously pled guilty to charges related to human trafficking was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg.

Elin Coello-Ordonez, 32, who pled guilty in June 2013 to one count of conspiring to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain and maintain a person in an interstate venture that used force, threats of force, fraud or coercion to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act, was sentenced this morning in District Court to 10 years in federal prison. The defendant is currently serving a five-year federal prison term on an immigration charge which rose out of the same investigation. In total, Coello-Ordonez will serve 15 years in federal prison for this matter.

“Mr. Coello-Ordonez forced the young victim in this case to engage in prostitution, then physically abused her when she resisted,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “We must continue to do all we can to identify and aggressively pursue similar patterns of human trafficking, which is sadly on the rise in our communities. We must also connect the victims of these awful crimes with services and relief, as the scars of trafficking are extremely difficult to erase.”

“Sex trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes HSI investigates. It sickens me that someone can treat another human being like a mere commodity,” said Clark Settles, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Washington, D.C. “Our special agents and law enforcement partners work tirelessly to eradicate sex trafficking- no one should have to endure the horrors associated with this crime.”

“The Albemarle County Police Department takes human trafficking very seriously. We are working with our federal, state and local partners to uproot human trafficking in our community. This is an example of successful multi-jurisdictional collaboration,” said Colonel Steve Sellers, Chief of Police for the Albemarle County Police Department.

According to evidence previously presented by Assistant United States Attorney Craig “Jake” Jacobsen, Coello-Ordonez travelled to Honduras in February 2010 and soon thereafter met Jane Doe #1 (the victim), a 17-year-old Honduras citizen. The two soon became boyfriend and girlfriend. The defendant promised the victim that he could get her a waitressing job in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Consequently, in August 2010, days before the victim’s eighteenth birthday, the defendant smuggled her across the border and into the United States.

Upon arrival in Harrisonburg, Virginia, it soon became clear to the victim that the defendant was involved in the operation of a prostitution ring, which consisted of brothels located in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, Virginia. It became equally clear that there was no waitressing job for the victim. After several months, the defendant told the victim she was going to have to work as a prostitute and have sex with men to earn money. The victim refused. As a result, the defendant verbally and physically abused her. The defendant slapped, kicked and punched the victim until she agreed.

From January 2011 to July 2011, the defendant forced the victim to work as a prostitute at his brothels in Virginia, as well as brothels operated by others in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The victim was forced to have sex with as many as 30 men a day.

On July 16, 2011, the victim called 911 several times because the defendant was beating her. When the police arrived, the victim began to shake uncontrollably and told police the defendant had physically assaulted her. The victim had sustained multiple bruises and her right eye was swollen shut. The defendant was arrested and the victim placed in a shelter for Human Trafficking victims.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Western District of Virginia’s Human Trafficking Task Force, headed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia. Agencies who assisted in the investigation include: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Albemarle County Police Department, the United States Secret Service, the Department of State Diplomatic Security, the Hyattsville, Maryland Police Department, the Virginia Fusion Center, the Computer Crimes Division of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, the Virginia State Police, the Harrisonburg Police Department and the University of Virginia’s Women’s Center. Assistant United States Attorney Craig “Jake” Jacobsen prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated April 15, 2015