WASHINGTON – Five defendants were arraigned in federal court Thursday following their extradition from Mexico on charges of sex trafficking and related violations as the latest development resulting from coordinated bilateral human trafficking enforcement efforts.
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Director Sarah R. Saldaña of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York made the announcement.
Jovan Rendon-Reyes, aka Jovani, 32; Guillermina Rendon-Reyes, 44; Jose Rendon-Garcia, aka Gusano, 32; Felix Rojas, 45; and Severiano Martinez-Rojas, 50, were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the Eastern District of New York on a 27-count indictment following their extradition from Mexico. The indictment, which was unsealed on Nov. 19, 2015, charges eight defendants with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of minors; interstate prostitution; alien smuggling; money laundering and related offenses. Three co-defendants charged in the same indictment, Saul Rendon-Reyes, aka Satanico, 37; Francisco Rendon-Reyes, aka Pancho, 27; and Odilon Martinez-Rojas, aka Chino and Saul, 44, were arraigned in the Eastern District of New York on Nov. 19, 2015.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that preys upon the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Attorney General Lynch. “Today, as part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing efforts to end this appalling practice, we are proud to announce the extradition of five Mexican traffickers who smuggled women and girls into the United States as sex slaves. Our action would not be possible without the close cooperation of our partners in Mexican law enforcement, and I want to thank them for their ongoing commitment to working together to uphold the rule of law in both of our countries. Going forward, we will continue to stand with Mexico – and with all of our international partners – to end human trafficking and to bring all those who facilitate this crime to justice.”
“Vindicating the rights of vulnerable individuals is among the highest priorities of the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The defendants are charged with operating a scheme across international borders to exploit young women and girls by prostituting them for the benefit of the defendants. We will work tirelessly to pursue justice for those held in modern-day slavery.”
“The extradition of these five defendants is an important step in our effort to bring some sense of closure to the victims of this terrible crime, and a testament to our resolve to end human trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Capers. “Our commitment to prosecute sex traffickers and those who would enslave others is unwavering. We would like to extend our deep gratitude to the government of Mexico and our law enforcement partners who made it possible to bring these defendants to the United States so that we may seek justice for their victims.”
The indictment alleges that the defendants were members of an international criminal organization, identified in the indictment as the Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization, which engaged in sex trafficking and related criminal activity between December 2004 and June 2014 in Queens, New York; Atlanta; and Jemison, Alabama, among other locations. According to the allegations in the indictment, the defendants used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause young women and girls from Mexico and Latin America to engage in prostitution in the United States.
Since 2009, the Department of Justice and HSI have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative aimed at strengthening high-impact prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law. The initiative is aimed at dismantling human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing human traffickers to justice, reuniting victims with their children and restoring the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims, held under the trafficking networks’ control. These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of more than 50 defendants in multiple cases in New York, Georgia, Florida and Texas since 2009, and numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers. The extraditions in this case are the latest development in the Eastern District of New York’s comprehensive anti-trafficking program, which has to date indicted more than 65 defendants in sex trafficking cases and provided assistance to more than 130 victims, including 36 minors. In addition, through the Eastern District of New York’s anti-trafficking program, 18 children have been reunited with their victim-mothers.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
In announcing the extradition and arraignment, Attorney General Lynch, Director Saldaña, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta and U.S. Attorney Capers commended the HSI’s New York Office, the HSI Mexico Attaché Office, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the State Department and the New York City Police Department for their assistance and praised the government of Mexico for its role in advancing bilateral anti-trafficking enforcement efforts.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taryn A. Merkl and Margaret Lee of the Eastern District of New York and Deputy Director Benjamin Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.