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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

5 charged in scheme to transport prostitutes to work in brothels in Maryland

BALTIMORE - Five men were charged in a criminal complaint and nine search warrants were executed yesterday in connection with a scheme to transport individuals from Virginia and Washington, D.C., to engage in prostitution in Annapolis and Easton, Md.

The criminal complaint was announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Chief Michael Pristoop of the Annapolis Police Department.

"This investigation is an excellent example of federal and local law enforcement working cooperatively to dismantle a criminal organization that used violence to ensure that their organization continued to profit from the exploitation of women," said Winter. "HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute criminals who profit through the exploitation of others."

"These arrests and search warrants are the result of many months of hard work. We are grateful to our federal partners from whom we received invaluable assistance. Human trafficking, prostitution and associated violence are intolerable in any community. Yesterday, our partnership made Annapolis even safer," said Pristoop.

Charged in the criminal complaint are: German de Jesus Ventura, 32, of Capitol Heights, Md.; Kerlin Esau Esquivel-Feuntes, 23, of Annapolis, Md.; Luis Alberto Reyes, 28; Isidro Jiminez-Sanchez and Wibert Alejandro Herrera-Aranda, both 32, of Easton, Md.

Ventura was arrested yesterday and is expected to have an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore later today. Jiminez-Sanchez and Herrera-Aranda are in state custody on related charges. Esquivel-Fuentes and Reyes are fugitives. All of the defendants are illegal aliens.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, since at least September 2008, Ventura has allegedly run brothels in Annapolis, Easton and elsewhere in Maryland, using and threatening to use violence against competitor pimps. According to the criminal complaint, Esquivel-Fuentes, Jiminez-Sanchez and Herrera-Aranda assisted Ventura in running the brothels, advertising the brothel, making appointments for the prostitutes and collecting money. The complaint also alleges that Reyes assisted in transporting the sex workers to the brothel locations, as well as purchasing supplies.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for transporting individuals to engage in prostitution.