The Justice Department announced Thursday that 54-year-old Maria Botello, her children -- Edgar Botello, 28, and Yudy Lucatero, 31, along with her nephew, 23-year-old Arian Botello, pimped out an unspecified number of women and at least one girl over a 13-year span from 2007 to last year.
The senior Botello is accused of setting up paid dates with clients who doled out $70 for every 15 minutes with the victims, according to the DOJ.
Her son, Edgar Botello, and nephew, Arian Botello, allegedly acted as "enforcers" -- intimidating the waitresses at Houston's Puerto Alegre bar with weapons and threats to keep them working.
Yudy Lucatero, the daughter, is accused of taking part in the alleged conspiracy by discussing "the rules and procedures in relation to the sex trafficking" with her mother.
At least one victim was a 17-year-old girl who was transported into the U.S. "specifically" for the purpose of forced sex work at the bar, according to investigators.
If convicted, each of the suspects faces 10 years to life in federal prison.
Authorities are also urging members of the public to report signs of potential human trafficking to authorities.
Indications of such activities include:
- Victims being forced to live where they work or transported from home to work by guards.
- Individuals appear to be monitored by another person when talking or interacting with others
- A "controlling" person -- a parent, guardian, romantic partner -- or a "sponsor" who will not allow possible victims to meet or speak with anyone alone or monitors their movements and communications.
A complete list of danger signs is available at the Human Trafficking Hotline website.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection says one in four victims of human trafficking or modern-day slavery are children – and the majority of forced laborers, including forced sex workers, are women and girls.
Texas alone saw more than 1,080 human trafficking cases reported in 2019, the most recent year with data available, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline. More than 800 of those involved in sex trafficking and almost all of the victims were female.