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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

New York couple sentenced on trafficking charges

the apartment the victim shared with the defendants in Brooklyn, N.Y.
the apartment the victim shared with the defendants in Brooklyn, N.Y.

NEW YORK - A husband and wife from Brooklyn, N.Y., were sentenced Thursday to federal prison on charges of sex trafficking a minor, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Domingo Salazar, 35, was sentenced to 30 years incarceration and Norma Mendez, 33, was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson for their respective roles in carrying out the crime. The couple pleaded guilty in July.

According to court documents in the case, Salazar and Mendez used physical violence, threats and intimidation to force a 17-year-old woman to work as a prostitute in and around New York City. The woman, a Mexican national, was allowed to leave the apartment she shared with the defendants only to work as a prostitute.

Half of the money the woman earned was taken by Salazar and the other half was given to the drivers who transported her to various locations for prostitution. The defendants forced the victim to work as a prostitute in order to pay them a $2,500 smuggling fee.

New York HSI's investigation revealed that Salazar smuggled the victim into the United States in April 2008. At that time, she was pregnant with his child. In January 2009, the baby mysteriously died.

According to a statement by the victim, Salazar put the dead baby in a bucket and filled it with concrete. In November 2009, during the execution of a search warrant, a container filled with concrete was seized. The New York City medical examiner x-rayed the container and determined that the remains of a small child were inside.

The body of the child was removed from the concrete and in January 2010, the medical examiner changed the cause of death on the baby's death certificate as homicide by "multiple injuries to head, torso and extremities; battered child syndrome."

"While this prison sentence does not negate the sheer brutality of the crimes against a young woman and an innocent child, it does ensure that these defendants cannot commit other violent acts against members of the public," said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of ICE HSI in New York. "We will continue to leverage our law enforcement partnerships and unique authorities to protect the safety and dignity of innocent victims who suffer at the hands of ruthless criminals."

ICE HSI was joined in the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, and the Kings County, N.Y., district attorney's office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Warren and Pamela Chen.