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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

2 arrests made in alleged sex-trafficking operation

HOUSTON - A man from the Dominican Republic was arrested on Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and a woman was arrested for allegedly harboring illegal aliens. These arrests took place following an enforcement action at various locations throughout the Houston area by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA). Several women were also rescued from a life of suspected forced prostitution. This operation was announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is one of the investigative components in HTRA.

Pedro Corporan Cedano, aka Joselo, 38, a citizen of the Dominican Republic illegally in the United States, was arrested Aug. 18 during a traffic stop near his Deer Park, Texas, residence. A criminal complaint filed under seal on Aug. 16, and unsealed following his arrest, charges Cedano with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. According to allegations in the criminal complaint, Cedano used several apartments in and around Houston and in Pasadena, Texas, to promote and provide commercial sex which allegedly involved harboring women illegally in the country, some of whom were paying off smuggling fees through prostitution.

A separate criminal complaint was filed on Thursday against Carmen Angeles, 33, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Dominican Republic, accusing her of harboring illegal aliens. Angeles was arrested at one of the apartments used for sex trafficking located on Goodson Drive in Houston as a result of the ongoing investigation. According to the allegations in the criminal complaint, Angeles used the Goodson apartment to knowingly harbor two illegal aliens. The complaint further alleges that Angeles used the illegal aliens housed at the Goodson location to provide commercial sex to customers.

Cedano appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Houston Aug. 19 and has been ordered temporarily detained in federal custody pending an Aug. 23 bond hearing on the government's motion to hold him in federal custody without bond pending further criminal proceedings. Angeles is expected to make her initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate judge on Aug. 20, at which time the issue of her continued detention is expected to be raised.

As a result of the Aug. 18 court-ordered enforcement action, a total of nine women illegally in the United States were found in a number of apartments allegedly controlled by Cedano. The nine women will likely become material witnesses in the case; all are in ICE custody.

The offense of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. The offense of harboring illegal aliens carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

HTRA is a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together with area social service organizations to identify and assist the victims of human trafficking, and to effectively identify, apprehend and prosecute those engaged in trafficking. HTRA members involved in the investigation and the Aug. 18 enforcement action include the following agencies: ICE-HSI, the FBI, Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, the Texas Attorney General's Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben Perez, Joseph Magliolo and Kebharu H. Smith, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.