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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
12/17/2009

Brownsville couple sentenced for smuggling aliens for prostitution

A local hotel was used as the headquarters for the prostitution criminal enterprise

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A local man and woman were sentenced Wednesday for their roles in smuggling illegal aliens into the United States for purposes of prostitution. The sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Juan Luis Coronado, aka Hernandez, 37, and Lee Ann Zieger, 40, both of Brownsville were sentenced to 87 months and 24 months, respectively, for their roles in a scheme to illegally bring in aliens for purposes of prostitution. The sentences were imposed by U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle at Wednesday's hearing.

Coronado pleaded guilty on Sept. 9 to one count of attempting to import a minor alien for prostitution purposes. In addition to the more than seven-year term of imprisonment, Judge Tagle ordered Coronado to serve a three-year term of supervised release. As part of his supervised release conditions, Coronado will be required to register as a sex offender and follow other sex offender-related conditions, such as no unsupervised contact with minors.

Zieger also pleaded guilty on Sept.9 to two counts of harboring aliens for purposes of prostitution. She too will be required to serve a three-year-term of supervised release after her two-year prison term. Zieger's sentence includes the court's consideration of her communications with Coronado while he was in custody, in violation of her conditions of release.

Coronado previously admitted to directing a prostitute to work for him in order to bring a 14-year-old minor from Mexico to work for him as a prostitute in October 2008. He also admitted to bringing in and managing at least two other alien prostitutes. Zieger took on many roles in this case. She was in charge of transporting, recruiting providing food and clothing, and collecting money from the prostitutes on at least one occasion. In total, the prostitution ring involved more than five people, which was considered by the court in determining the ultimate sentence imposed on Coronado.

The record of the case establishes that the prostitutes were housed in a Brownsville hotel where Coronado's girlfriend, co-defendant Zieger, was the manager and provided him with rooms to use in the prostitution enterprise. Coronado used a room key labeled "Property Manager" during the course of the prostitution scheme which had been provided to him by Zieger.

ICE also learned that Coronado had the smuggled women working at two other locations: Bike Fest at South Padre Island and downtown Brownsville.

Coronado has been in custody since his arrest and will remain in custody to begin serving his 87-month prison term. However, Zieger was permitted to remain on bond pending the issuance of an order to surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service to begin serving her sentence.

The case resulted from a 14-month investigation conducted by ICE and U.S Customs and Border Protection.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonardo, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.