HOUSTON—The last person to plead guilty in a 10-defendant indictment has been sentenced to federal prison for his role in an organization involved in the trafficking of Mexican females for compelled service at Houston area bars and restaurants through force, fraud, and coercion, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Javier Belmontes, 48, entered a guilty plea on March 19, 2012, for conspiring to harbor Mexican nationals.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes handed Belmontes a 48-month prison term, which will be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Hughes also forfeited two bars, one restaurant, and several properties that the court found were used to facilitate these crimes. The government has requested the proceeds from these forfeitures be used to aid the victims in this case.
Belmontes was charged along with nine others in a conspiracy involving the recruitment of Mexican women and girls to travel to the United States with the false expectation of legitimate jobs in bars and restaurants. The indictment, returned February 15, 2011, alleged that the conspirators further relied on the services of pimps to supply the women for use as prostitutes to maintain control of the women.
Maria Rojas, aka “Nancy,” 47, was the owner of La Costenita, formerly Playa Sola, as well as El Club Restaurante, formerly La Cueva Restaurante Bar, both located on Clinton Drive in Houston. Belmontes owned, controlled and operated La Costenita and El Club Restaurante, while Jose Luis Rojas, 39, operated La Costenita. Seven others were charged in the indictment with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Maday Martinez, 35, and Evelin Carolina Aguera, 39, worked as managers, while Claudia Perez Ramirez, 28; Silvano Santos, aka “Chivas,” 33; Francisco Maradiaga Jimenez, aka “Pancho,” 35; and Olvan Ramirez Caceres, 27, worked at La Costenita as lookouts alerting police presence. The final defendant, Aleyda Juarez, 29, passed out condoms and charged the females $15 for the condom as well as use of the rooms.
Aguera, Santos, Perez Ramirez, Maradiaga Jimenez, Ramirez Caceres, and Juarez have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. Their sentences for their roles in conspiracy to harboring illegal aliens has ranged from eight to 11 months, and all will be deported upon completion of their sentences. Martinez has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
On November 28, 2011, Maria Rojas and Jose Luis Rojas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens as well as conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. They were later sentenced to 16 years for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in addition to 10 years for conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, to run concurrently. Maria Rojas also pleaded guilty to illegal re-entry after deportation and received an additional 24 months to be served concurrently to her other sentences.
The investigation leading to the filing of criminal charges was the result of a three-year investigation conducted by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) in Houston, which includes the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Department of State, Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Houston Police Department. The HTRA was formed by the United States Attorney’s Office in Houston as part of a broader effort by the Department of Justice to concentrate and combine resources of our own office’s civil rights and organized crime units as well as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those victimized by the traffickers. The Houston HTRA was one of the first of 42 such funded organizations and the first of its kind in Texas. The mission of the HTRA is to foster the collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies with area social service organizations to identify and assist the victims of human trafficking and to effectively identify, apprehend, and prosecute those engaged in trafficking offenses.
Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo prosecuted the case, while Katherine Haden handled the asset forfeiture matter.