Prosecution Dismantles Transnational Sex Trafficking Organization that Compelled Women and Girls into Prostitution for Over a Decade
Eight members of an international criminal organization, known as the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization, entered guilty pleas in federal district court in Brooklyn, New York, this month to Racketeering and other federal charges arising from their scheme to force young women and girls from Mexico and Latin America into prostitution. For over a decade, the defendants smuggled their victims into the United States, then used force, threats of force, fraud, deception, and coercion to compel them to engage in prostitution for the defendants’ profit, generating criminal proceeds which the defendants laundered back to Mexico.
The eight defendants were charged in July 2015 in a 27-count indictment in the Eastern District of New York with Racketeering and Racketeering Conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, sex trafficking of minors, money laundering, alien smuggling, and interstate transportation for prostitution, in addition to parallel substantive charges.
The defendants were arrested simultaneously in the United States and Mexico in November 2015 as part of bilateral enforcement action. Five of the defendants were apprehended in Mexico by Mexican authorities and later extradited, and three were arrested in the United States by the specialized Trafficking in Persons Unit of the New York Office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde of the Eastern District of New York and Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations made the announcement.
In a series of guilty pleas entered between April 5 and April 21, 2017, all eight of the defendants pleaded guilty to charges of Racketeering involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and sex trafficking of minors. The defendants are Jovan Rendon-Reyes, aka Jovani, 33, of Mexico; Saul Rendon-Reyes, aka Satanico, 39, of Queens; Guillermina Rendon-Reyes, 46, of Mexico; Francisco Rendon-Reyes, aka Pancho, 28, of Queens; Jose Rendon-Garcia, aka Gusano, 34, of Mexico; Felix Rojas, 47, of Mexico; Odilon Martinez-Rojas, aka Chino or Saul, 45, of Mexico; and Severiano Martinez-Rojas, 52, of Mexico.
In addition to the Racketeering charges, defendants Jovan Rendon-Reyes, Saul Rendon-Reyes, Felix Rojas, Odilon Martinez-Rojas and Severiano Martinez-Rojas each pleaded guilty to substantive offenses of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; defendant Jose Rendon-Garcia also pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor; and defendant Francisco Rendon-Reyes pleaded guilty to interstate transportation for the purpose of prostitution.
Defendants Odilon Martinez-Rojas and Severiano Martinez-Rojas were also charged in a separate bilateral sex trafficking prosecution in the Northern District of Georgia in 2013. Odilon Martinez-Rojas was convicted in October 2014 and sentenced to 262 months’ imprisonment in January 2015 in that case. Defendant Severiano Martinez-Rojas had remained a fugitive from that prosecution until apprehended during the November 2015 bilateral enforcement operation. On April 18, 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking charged in the Northern District of Georgia case, in proceedings transferred to the Eastern District of New York for entry of the defendant’s guilty plea.
According to documents filed in court and the defendants’ admissions during the plea proceedings, the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization operated as a family-based enterprise that profited by prostituting young women and girls. According to their admissions during plea proceedings, the defendants and their associates recruited young women and girls from Mexico on false promises, smuggled them into the United States, prostituted them in New York, Georgia, and other locations, and retained the prostitution proceeds for members of the family-based criminal organization. During their guilty plea hearings, the eight defendants collectively admitted to participating in the sex trafficking of nine women and two minor girls, as well as the prostitution of a twelfth woman.
“The Department of Justice is committed to bringing to justice anyone who engages in the abominable crime of human trafficking,” said Attorney General Sessions. “The defendants in this case preyed on vulnerable young women and girls, and brought them to the United States with the sole purpose of subjecting them to degradation that no person should have to endure. Now these criminals will face justice for their acts, which brazenly disregarded the humanity of the victims, the integrity of our borders, and the rule of law. I am grateful for the efforts of our investigators and prosecutors, and the strong collaboration between the Eastern District of New York, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, and the federal agents from the New York Office of Homeland Security Investigations. I also thank our Mexican partners for working closely with us to dismantle trafficking networks and protect innocent lives.”
“These convictions bring a measure of justice on behalf of the victims the defendants held in sexual servitude. We will continue to work tirelessly to dismantle human trafficking networks and to condemn all forms of modern-day slavery” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler. “The U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative has proven instrumental in countering transnational trafficking threats, and we look forward to building on the momentum of this highly effective engagement with Mexican authorities.”
“This case demonstrates our Office’s continuing commitment to seeking justice for the victims of modern day slavery,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde. “As demonstrated by our efforts over the last decade to bring sex traffickers to justice, the Eastern District of New York remains steadfast in its resolve to eradicate organizations that enslave young women and girls, and to bring trafficking victims out of the shadows. I sincerely hope that these pleas bring some measure of closure for the victims of these heinous crimes.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde also expressed thanks to the members of HSI-New York’s Trafficking in Persons Unit for their leadership on the multi-year investigation of this case, and their continued partnership with the Eastern District of New York in the effort to end human trafficking.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) remains committed to disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal organizations willing to do anything, including victimizing women and girls, to make money,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Edge. “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and HSI will continue collaboration with our local, state, federal, and global partners, as well as the NGO community, to bring justice to those impacted by this terrible crime and to assist the victims in their recovery.”
When sentenced, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In addition, defendants Jovan Rendon-Reyes, Saul Rendon-Reyes, Felix Rojas, Odilon Martinez-Rojas and Severiano Martinez-Rojas face mandatory minimum sentences of fifteen years of imprisonment pursuant to their convictions for sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and defendant Jose Rendon-Garcia faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years of imprisonment resulting from his conviction for sex trafficking of a minor. As part of the plea agreements, the defendants will also be ordered to pay restitution to the victims identified in the indictment, in an amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.
The investigation, prosecution, bilateral enforcement action, and extraditions of the defendants apprehended in Mexico were coordinated through the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative. Since 2009, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative 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. These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of over 170 defendants in multiple cases in Georgia, New York, Florida, and Texas, in addition to numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers. The convictions in this case are also the latest development in the Eastern District of New York’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program, which has to date indicted more than 70 defendants, assisted more than 135 victims, including 39 minors, reunited 19 victims’ children with their mothers, and secured restitution orders of over $4 million on behalf of trafficking victims.
In announcing the convictions, Attorney General Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney Wheeler, and Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde commended HSI New York’s Trafficking in Persons Unit for leading the investigation of the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization; thanked the HSI Mexico City Attaché Office, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the State Department, and the New York City Police Department, the FBI’s Atlanta Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia for their assistance; and praised the government of Mexico for its role in advancing bilateral anti-trafficking enforcement efforts. 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.
The case against the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization was investigated by HSI New York’s Trafficking in Persons Unit, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Margaret Lee of the Eastern District of New York and Deputy Director Benjamin Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.