Jemison connected to sex trafficking ring

Published 1:55 pm Monday, November 23, 2015

Federal authorities arrested and charged eight members of a sex trafficking ring that involved girls being brought from Mexico and Latin America to the United States, including Jemison, forcing them to be prostitutes.

A 27-count indictment was unsealed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging eight defendants with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling, money laundering and related offenses.

Five defendants were arrested in Mexico last week and two in Queens, New York, as part of a coordinated bilateral law enforcement action, according to a release from the United States Department of Justice.

The eight defendants are Jovan Rendon-Reyes, aka Jovani, 32, of Mexico; Saul Rendon-Reyes, aka Satanico, 37, of Queens; Guillermina Rendon-Reyes, 44, of Mexico; Francisco Rendon-Reyes, aka Pancho, 27, of Queens; Jose Rendon-Garcia, aka Gusano, 32, of Mexico; Felix Rojas, 45, of Mexico; Odilon Martinez-Rojas, aka Chino or Saul, 44, currently of Brucetown Mills, West Virginia; and Severiano Martinez-Rojas, 50, of Mexico.

The charges were announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; Director Sara R. Saldana of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York, according to the release.

It is unclear what happened in Jemison, and U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Dena W. Iverson declined to provide additional comment.

“The case demonstrates the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to ending human trafficking,” said Lynch in a release. “As set forth in the indictment, these defendants used force, fraud, and coercion to lure young women and girls into their control, smuggle them into the United States, and exploit them for profit–an abhorrent violation of both the law and basic human dignity. In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to act decisively to hold traffickers accountable, protect vulnerable individuals, and assist survivors of this heinous crime. I want to thank the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who worked tirelessly on this case, and our partners in the government of Mexico for their invaluable assistance.”

Capers said in the release that human trafficking in any form would not be tolerated.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute sex traffickers and those would would enslave women and children for monetary gain,” Capers said in a release. “We will not rest until international trafficking organizations are eliminated.”

The indictment alleges that the defendants were members of an international criminal organization, identified in the indictment as the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization, whose members functioned as a continuing unit for a common purpose of achieving the objectives of the enterprise. The enterprise was engaged in, and its activities affected, interstate and foreign commerce, according to the indictment.

The organization engaged in sex trafficking and related criminal activity between December 2004 and June 2014 in Queens, Atlanta, and Jemison, among other locations.

According to the indictment, members and associates of the enterprise used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause young women and minor girls from Mexico and Latin America to engage in prostitution in the United States.

Members and associates of the enterprise arranged to smuggle young women and minor girls into the United States and transported them to Queens, Atlanta, Jemison and elsewhere, and harbor them at various locations.

Since 2009, the Department of Justice and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative aimed at strengthening high-impact prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law.

The initiative is aimed at dismantling human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing human traffickers victims, held under the trafficking networks’ control.

These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of over 50 defendants in multiple cases in New York, Georgia, Florida and Texas since 2009, and numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers.

The charges unsealed last week are the latest development in the Eastern District of New York’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program, which has to date indicted over 65 defendants in sex trafficking cases and provided assistance to over 130 victims, including 36 minors.

In addition, through the Eastern District of New York’s anti-trafficking program, 18 children have been reunited with their victim-mothers.

The U.S.-based defendants were arraigned last week before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

In announcing the indictment, Attorney General Lynch, Director Saldaña, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta and U.S. Attorney Capers commended the HSI’s New York Office, the HSI Mexico Attaché Office, the FBI’s Atlanta Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the State Department and the New York City Police Department for their assistance, and praised the government of Mexico for its role in this bilateral enforcement action. 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 in connection with this case and others.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Margaret Lee of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Benjamin Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.