Brooklyn, New York – They promised the young teens love and a better life, authorities say.
But once the girls were smuggled from Mexico to New York, what awaited them was “modern-day slavery,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
Lynch announced Monday the extradition and arraignment of four sex traffickers from Mexico charged with sex trafficking, interstate prostitution, human smuggling and money laundering – actions that involved victims as young as 14 years old.
On Monday morning, Benito Lopez-Perez, 32, and Anastasio Romero-Perez, 39, both of Mexico, were arraigned before U.S. District Court Judge Carol B. Amon in New York on a 25-count indictment following their extradition.
A third defendant, Jose Gabino Barrientos-Perez, 51, was extradited from Mexico and arraigned on Dec. 3, and faced the same charges, according to a press release by the Department of Justice. Yet another defendant, Antonio Lira-Robles, 37, was arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn on Nov. 19 in a separate sex trafficking case, Lynch said.
They have pled not guilty, published reports said.
Lynch also said that a Mexican sex trafficking victim had been reunited with her child, who was being held in Mexico by members of the trafficking organization.
“As alleged, the defendants lured young women into the world’s oldest profession using the world’s oldest ruse – the promise of a committed relationship and a better life,” Lynch said in the announcement. “Once here in the United States, the women were cut off from their families and kept dependent on the traffickers, whose promises of love soon turned to lies, beatings and threats to the victims’ families in order to maintain their hold over them.”
“The sex trafficking of young girls and women is modern-day slavery,” Lynch said. “We will do everything in our power to eradicate it. Few crimes are more repugnant than the trafficking of innocent women and girls for sex.”
The statement said that the defendants recruited three victims in Mexico when they were just 14 and 15 years old.
The victims were punished for not earning enough money for the defendants, the statement said, and were forced to turn all their money to them. The defendants threatened to hurt the victims’ relatives if they tried to run away, the statement said.
Authorities said the three defendants, all brothers, began smuggling dozens of girls and women in 2003.
The Justice Department announcement said that the three brothers “worked together, frequently relying on each other to watch over the victims when any of the brothers traveled back to Mexico.”