The Department of Justice today announced that Judge Amy Totenberg of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia sentenced two defendants, Arturo Rojas-Coyotl, 28, and Odilon Martinez-Rojas, 43, both of Tenancingo, Tlaxcala, Mexico, to 192 months and 262 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in compelling three young women to prostitute in the Atlanta, Georgia., area. In imposing the sentences, United States District Court Judge Totenberg also ordered the defendants to pay $180,000 in restitution to the victims.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery-- period. No matter the label, the of use violence, intimidation, psychological coercion, deception, or fear to exploit fellow human beings is repugnant,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “The long sentences handed down today are just one of the latest examples of the Justice Department's unshakable resolve to dismantle human trafficking networks and prosecute those who would commit these unspeakable crimes against some of the most vulnerable in our society." Yates’ previous service as United States Attorney from 2010 to 2015 included making her district—the Northern District of Georgia—one of several key U.S. districts engaged in the Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative.
In October 2014, the defendants pleaded guilty to three counts of sex trafficking and three related immigration violations pertaining to three separate victims of their sex trafficking scheme. According to the indictment and documents filed in court, in early 2006, Rojas-Coyotl lured a young Mexican national of indigenous heritage using false promises of love, legitimate work and a better life to induce her to travel with him into the United States. Upon her arrival in the United States, Rojas-Coyotl and Martinez-Rojas used physical violence, threats, intimidation, deception and psychological manipulation to compel her to engage in prostitution, for the defendants’ profit, in Georgia and Alabama, for over a year and half until she escaped in November 2007.
In March 2007, Rojas Coyotl and Martinez started romancing two young Guatemalan women and lured them to the United States in October 2007, under the same false pretenses. The defendants then employed a nearly identical coercive scheme to compel the young women to prostitute in Georgia and Alabama before they escaped at separate times in early 2008.
The defendants made the young women fearful of law enforcement and thus, the victims did not immediately come forward. Once investigators did find and speak to them, the details of the trafficking emerged: the defendants ran a high volume, low cost business compelling the young women to have sex, at times with upwards of 20 men a night in 15 minute increments, for payment of $30- $35. The money earned by the victims was split between the defendants and others who drove the young women to the clients. One of the young women became ill and suffered great pain due to the repeated commercial sex acts she had to endure.
Since 2009, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security 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, in order to more effectively dismantle human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bring human traffickers to justice, restore the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims and reunite victims with their children 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 Georgia, New York, Florida, and Texas since 2009, in addition to numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers.
“These defendants targeted vulnerable individuals, preying on their hopes and dreams, dominating and deceiving them, and selling their bodies to strangers, all so the defendants could collect thousands of dollars in prostitution proceeds while the victims lived in fear, denied control over their own lives,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division is unwavering in its commitment to bringing human traffickers to justice and restoring the rights and dignity of the courageous survivors of all forms of modern-day slavery.”
“Sex trafficking is a horrendous crime that robs the victims of their freedom and dignity, leaving them feeling isolated and powerless,” said Acting United States Attorney John Horn for the Northern District of Georgia. “This case hits new lows in depravity given the number of times these girls were victimized each day. These defendants are being held accountable by U.S. laws which protect all victims of human trafficking.”
A third co-defendant, Daniel Garcia-Tepal, pleaded guilty to related immigration offenses. A fourth co-defendant, Severiano Martinez-Rojas, remains a fugitive.
“This case represents one of the worst examples of human trafficking and why it is such a priority matter for not only law enforcement but for the many non-government agencies who help law enforcement in reporting human trafficking and providing assistance to those with nowhere else to turn,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Office. “The FBI urges anyone with information regarding human trafficking activities to contact authorities and help put an end to modern day slavery.”
“The defendants mercilessly manipulated, abused and exploited these women in a criminal scheme that is all too common in our communities,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “Sex trafficking and other forms of human trafficking are a scourge on our society that HSI is dedicated to ending.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Benjamin J. Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Assistant United States Attorney Susan Coppedge of the Northern District of Georgia.