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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
07/07/2009

Ringleader sentenced in major prostitution case

MINNEAPOLIS - One of two people who ran a major Minnesota prostitution ring was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in federal prison.  This is the 23rd defendant sentenced as the result of an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with assistance from local and state law enforcement agencies.

U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen sentenced Oscar Rogelio Hisep-Roman, 33, of Dover, Fla., to 28 months in prison for conspiring to commit an offense against the United States.  Hisep-Roman, along with 24 other defendants, was indicted in May 2007 following their arrests in Minneapolis and Austin, Minn., by ICE agents with assistance from state and local authorities.  Hisep-Roman pleaded guilty April 10, 2008.

A second primary defendant, Marisol Ramirez, 39, of Richfield, Minn., was sentenced June 25 to 30 months in prison for conspiracy money laundering, illegal re-entry after deportation.  She pleaded guilty April 3, 2008.

"These sentencings send the message that this is far from a victimless crime," said U.S. Attorney Frank J. Magill. "This conspiracy of operating brothels is an intolerable crime. Our office will continue working to show that Minnesota is not a haven for human trafficking, and that we will use our resources to prosecute those who engage in this heinous conduct."

"Today's sentencing should serve as a reminder of the pain, suffering and humiliation that Hisep-Roman and his criminal organization brought upon the women under their control," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Bloomington, Minn. "While we can't erase that suffering, we can pledge that ICE and its law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who profit from others' misery."

According to their plea agreements, Hisep-Roman and Ramirez admitted that they ran a large-scale prostitution business from 2006 to 2007 that brought in women from other states and countries to work as prostitutes in various brothels.  They also admitted that they recruited and employed multiple individuals to help operate the business.  These individuals ran the brothels, transported the prostitutes, collected money, passed out business cards to promote the business, as well as other duties.

Ramirez admitted that she sent the money she earned outside of the United States knowing that the funds were the proceeds from prostitution and knowing that the transfer was designed to conceal that fact.

Twenty-two other defendants have already been sentenced for conspiring to commit an offense against the Unites States. They are:

  • Juana Altagracia-Lara, 66, of Edina, Minn., was sentenced to 21 months in prison in September 2008;
  • Jose Romone Santos-Vargas, 55, of Edina, was sentenced to time already served in September 2008;
  • Wilfredo Antonio Veloz, 38, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to time already served in May 2009;
  • Keila Villanueva, 39, of Edina, was sentenced to five months in prison in September 2008;
  • Miguel Isep-Roman, 29, of Edina, was sentenced to 27 months in prison July 15, 2008;
  • Arlenys Garcia-Encarnacion, 22, of Richfield, Minn., was sentenced to time already served in August 2008;
  • Leidy Rivera-Hernandez, 35, of Richfield, was sentenced to two years' probation June 11, 2009;
  • Yesenia Garcia-Encarnacion, 23, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to time already served in August 2008;
  • Alejandro Nava-Garcia, 30, of St. Paul, was sentenced to 21 months in prison in August of 2008;
  • Abraham Gomez, 27, of Richfield, was sentenced to 15 months in prison June 18, 2008;
  • Agusto Sapom, 27, of Richfield, was sentenced to 15 months in prison June 20, 2008;
  • Angel Martinez Andres, 30, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 24 months in prison in September 2008;
  • Arturo Meza-Ortiz, 35, of West St. Paul, was sentenced to time already served in October 2008;
  • Manuel Medina-Gonzalez, 38, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 27 months in prison in August 2008;
  • Juan Jesus Ysep Ramon, 33, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 21 months in prison in August 2008;
  • Juan M. Ramon-Trejo, 24, of Richfield, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and three years of supervised release on July 15, 2008;
  • Jose Garibo Aguilera, 31, of Mableton, Ga., was sentenced to 37 months in prison in November 2008;
  • Miguel Moreno Guzman, 30, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 15 months in prison June 18, 2008;
  • Juan Ortiz-Cortez, 50, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 15 months in prison June 13, 2008;
  • Oscar Bravo-Ceron, 30, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 15 months in prison June 4, 2008; and
  • Julio Silverio, 30, of Minneapolis, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in January 2009.
  • One defendant, Manuel Dejesus Familia-Rosario, 58, of Edina, awaits sentencing. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit an offense against the United States Sept. 5, 2007.

The indictment states that while in Minnesota, the women resided and worked as prostitutes in brothels or stayed in a "transition" house, located in Minneapolis. The brothels were allegedly advertised through the use of business cards written in Spanish.

This case is the result of an investigation by ICE, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the St. Paul Police Department, with the assistance of the police departments of Minneapolis, Richfield, Austin and West St. Paul.  The investigation was also aided by the Gerald D. Vick Human Trafficking Task Force, which was named for the slain St. Paul police officer who dedicated his professional life to eradicating the trafficking and prostitution of people. The task force was established with federal funds and is comprised of investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ICE, the police departments of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the sheriff's offices of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and other agencies. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked annually across international borders for involuntary servitude or use in the sex trades.  An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 are trafficked within the U.S. each year.