MCALLEN, Texas – A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men on all counts charged arising from a conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens to engage in prostitution. This conviction was announced by U.S. Attorney JosÃ© Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Juan Antonio Garcia-Garay, 31, Juan Ignacio Chavarria-Ontiveros, 26, and Antonio Martinez Jr., 38, were convicted June 15 after the jury deliberated two hours after a three-day trial. Garcia-Garay, of Rio Grande City, Texas, was found guilty of importing aliens for prostitution, conspiracy to harbor and harboring aliens. Chavarria-Ontiveros, of Mexico, and Martinez, of Rio Grande City, were both convicted of conspiracy to harbor and harboring illegal aliens.
During trial, the jury heard testimony from a Rio Grande City police officer that on March 16, during a routine traffic stop the officer encountered the driver, Garcia-Garay, and Chavirra-Ontiveros and a 13-year-old girl as passengers. The officer learned that the girl was in the country illegally and contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.
While asking routine questions of the unaccompanied minor, CBP learned that the girl was being used for prostitution purposes. ICE HSI agents were contacted and their investigation identified the 13-year-old and two girls, ages 15 and 18, who were undocumented aliens who had been harbored at two apartments and a house in Rio Grande City, Texas.
These girls testified they had been prostitutes in Mexico and Garcia-Garay had asked them to work in the United States. They testified he coordinated their travel and that while they were at the apartments and house, they had sex with the defendants and other men. The girls were promised money upon their return to Mexico. Chavarria, who was armed, acted as a guard at the apartments always looking out the window. Martinez rented the apartments and lived in the home where the juveniles were harbored.
A fourth defendant, Jorge Eutacio Martinez-Mendoza, 46, previously pleaded guilty to the conspiracy-to-harbor charges, and is awaiting sentencing.
All defendants will remain in custody pending their sentencing. The foreign national defendant also faces possible deportation after he completes his prison term.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Leo and Kristen Rees, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.