NEWARK, N.J. – Federal agents rounded up 66 people Monday in a series of raids described by officials as smashing a ring that smuggled Mexicans into the United States and may have forced women to work as prostitutes.
Officers with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided 15 locations in New Jersey and New York early Monday after New Jersey State Police pulled over two vehicles containing at least 10 women who had been working in brothels in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, said Kyle Hutchins, special agent in charge of the bureau's Newark office.
None of the alleged prostitution took place in New Jersey, authorities said. Rather, when their weekly or monthly shifts in Washington-area brothels were finished, the women would be driven to northern New Jersey and New York, Hutchins said.
Thirty-six women and 30 men were taken into custody, Hutchins said. Two were charged with illegal money transfer and the rest were being held on immigration charges alleging they were in this country illegally, he said.
It was at least the third major immigrant smuggling ring believed to be operating in New Jersey in recent years.
Authorities said prosecutions involving Russian strippers who were forced to work in go-go bars and young Honduran women forced to work as hostesses are ongoing in federal court.
Hutchins said authorities were trying to determine whether the latest suspected ring was connected to either of the previous cases.