Washington, DC - A 27-count indictment was unsealed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging eight defendants with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling, money laundering and related offenses.
Over the past two days, five defendants were arrested in Mexico and two in Queens, New York, as part of a coordinated bilateral law enforcement action. A third U.S. defendant is currently in federal custody in West Virginia. The eight defendants are Jovan Rendon-Reyes, aka Jovani, 32, of Mexico; Saul Rendon-Reyes, aka Satanico, 37, of Queens; Guillermina Rendon-Reyes, 44, of Mexico; Francisco Rendon-Reyes, aka Pancho, 27, of Queens; Jose Rendon-Garcia, aka Gusano, 32, of Mexico; Felix Rojas, 45, of Mexico; Odilon Martinez-Rojas, aka Chino or Saul, 44, currently of Brucetown Mills, West Virginia; and Severiano Martinez-Rojas, 50, of Mexico.
The charges were announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; Director Sarah R. Saldaña of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; and U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York.
“This case demonstrates the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to ending human trafficking,” said Attorney General Lynch. “As set forth in the indictment, these defendants used force, fraud, and coercion to lure young women and girls into their control, smuggle them into the United States, and exploit them for profit – an abhorrent violation of both the law and basic human dignity. In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to act decisively to hold traffickers accountable, protect vulnerable individuals, and assist survivors of this heinous crime. I want to thank the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who worked tirelessly on this case, and our partners in the government of Mexico for their invaluable assistance.”
“Today’s joint operation reflects our commitment to working with Mexico to bring to justice human traffickers who have no regard for human life,” said Director Saldaña. “We are resolute in our efforts to not only arrest the human traffickers behind this vile crime, but also to rescue the victims whose lives have tragically been forever changed.”
“Vindicating the rights of vulnerable individuals is among the highest priorities of the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The defendants are charged with operating a scheme across international borders to exploit young women and girls by prostituting them for the benefit of the defendants. We will work tirelessly to pursue justice for those held in modern-day slavery.”
“Human trafficking in any form will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Capers. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute sex traffickers and those who would enslave women and children for monetary gain. We will not rest until international trafficking organizations are eliminated.”
The indictment alleges that the defendants were members of an international criminal organization, identified in the indictment as the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization, which engaged in sex trafficking and related criminal activity between December 2004 and June 2014 in Queens, Atlanta and Jemison, Alabama, among other locations. The defendants used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause young women and girls from Mexico and Latin America to engage in prostitution in the United States.
Since 2009, the Department of Justice and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative aimed at strengthening high-impact prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law. The initiative is aimed at dismantling human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing human traffickers to justice, reuniting victims with their children and restoring the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims, held under the trafficking networks’ control. These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of over 50 defendants in multiple cases in New York, Georgia, Florida and Texas since 2009, and numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers. The charges unsealed yesterday are the latest development in the Eastern District of New York’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program, which has to date indicted over 65 defendants in sex trafficking cases and provided assistance to over 130 victims, including 36 minors. In addition, through the Eastern District of New York’s anti-trafficking program, 18 children have been reunited with their victim-mothers.
The U.S.-based defendants were arraigned yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
In announcing the indictment, Attorney General Lynch, Director Saldaña, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta and U.S. Attorney Capers commended the HSI’s New York Office, the HSI Mexico Attaché Office, the FBI’s Atlanta Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the State Department and the New York City Police Department for their assistance, and praised the government of Mexico for its role in this bilateral enforcement action. The Justice Department also acknowledged the non-governmental victim service providers and advocates for their dedicated efforts to restore and improve the lives of survivors of trafficking and their families in connection with this case and others.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Margaret Lee of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Benjamin Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.