NEW YORK - Two owners and the manager of two bars in Long Island are under arrest following an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation. The three defendants are accused of trafficking young women and forcing them into prostitution.
Antonio Rivera, 34, Jasmin Rivera, 31 and John Whaley, 34, all from Long Island, face charges of conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor and alien harboring.
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation revealed Antonio Rivera, a registered sex offender, and his sister Jasmin Rivera owned and operated the Sonidos de la Frontera bar, located in Lake Ronkonkoma, and the La Hija del Mariachi bar, located in Farmingville. Whaley was employed as a manager in both bars. From September 2007 through August 2009, the Riveras and Whaley allegedly lured young women, primarily Central American illegal immigrants, to work in the bars as waitresses and hostesses. Some of the women were as young as 17 years of age.
Court documents reveal, after the women began working in the bars, the defendants forced them to engage in sex acts with bar patrons in exchange for money, with the defendants keeping half of the proceeds. When the women refused or resisted, the defendants used physical force, including rape and assaults, and threatened to report the women to immigration authorities. The defendants also controlled the movement of the women between the bars and other locations in Hempstead, Huntington and Brentwood, transporting them in vehicles registered to the Riveras and Whaley. The complaint also charges the defendants with conspiring to harbor illegal aliens by concealing the women's true identities and immigration status from state licensing agencies and law enforcement authorities.
"As alleged in the indictment, these defendants lured innocent young women into the United States with promises of legitimate jobs and the American dream, but once the victims arrived, their dreams turned into nightmares as the defendants used threats and violence to force them into prostitution," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton. "ICE is at the forefront of the U.S. government's response to international human trafficking. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this egregious crime."
"As described in the complaint, sex trafficking preys upon vulnerable young women for profit and degrades both the individual victims and the communities where these crimes are committed," said Benton J. Campbell, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "This office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute such crimes."
"These serious crimes against young women will not be tolerated in Suffolk County. This department values its role as the local law enforcement component of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force for Long Island," said Richard Dormer, police commissioner for the Suffolk County Police Department. "This case demonstrates the effectiveness of the task force paradigm, which coordinates the efforts of local and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as community service agencies, support groups, and educational entities. We hope these arrests will put others on notice that sex trafficking and similar crimes will continue to be a high priority for this department."
"Forced labor is tantamount to enslavement. The form of forced labor charged here made young women, some of them minors, sex slaves," said Joseph M. Demarest, assistant director in charge of the FBI in New York. "As inhuman as that was, if they resisted, they were allegedly subjected to even worse. We are committed to protecting the vulnerable, whatever their status."
"People typically don't think about IRS Criminal Investigators being involved with a sex trafficking case. But what it all comes down to is greed," said Patricia J. Haynes, special agent in charge of the IRS in New York. Our value to this investigation comes through working with our law enforcement partners and use of our financial expertise to track down the proceeds of the charged crimes."
This investigation was led by ICE and conducted jointly with the FBI, IRS and Suffolk County Police Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Demetri Jones and John Durham with the Eastern District of New York.