AUSTIN, Texas – A man accused of managing brothels in Texas and Oklahoma has pleaded guilty to smuggling women into the country to work as prostitutes.
The Austin and Oklahoma City operations run by Juan Balderas-Orosco, 34, were part of a larger ring that included brothels in 13 cities in Texas and across the nation, including New York City, Las Vegas and Atlanta, according to documents filed with his plea on Friday.
The ringleaders sneaked hundreds of women into the United States, most of them from Latin American countries, and forced them to have sex with as many as 40 men a day, according to the court documents. They moved the women from brothel to brothel and kept the earnings.
"The prostitutes reported they were not free to leave the brothels on their own, and the brothel operators were usually armed with firearms," according to the filing.
Balderas-Orosco, 34, pleaded guilty to federal charges of transportation for prostitution, importation of illegal aliens, importation of illegal aliens and conspiracy to smuggle, transport and harbor illegal aliens. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
Balderas' lawyer, Kristin Etter, said case was a symptom of a broken immigration system. With limited opportunities for immigrants to come to the U.S., some "are pushed into this underground economy and forced into these kinds of jobs," she said.
He was captured last year and is the lead defendant in an indictment that charges 12 people with smuggling and prostitution crimes. Seven have pleaded guilty in the case and three defendants are at large.