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October 14, 2014Harrisonburg, VA, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Honduran man sentenced to 10 years for human trafficking

HARRISONBURG, Va. — A citizen of Honduras was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison on human trafficking charges. The Western District of Virginia's Human Trafficking Task Force spearheaded this investigation, which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), among other agencies.

Elin Coello-Ordonez, 32, pleaded guilty in June 2013. He is currently serving a five-year federal prison term on an immigration charge which resulted from the same investigation. In total, Coello-Ordonez will serve 15 years in federal prison.

"Mr. Coello-Ordonez forced the young victim in this case to engage in prostitution, then physically abused her when she resisted," said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy. "We must continue to do all we can to identify and aggressively pursue similar patterns of human trafficking, which is sadly on the rise in our communities. We must also connect the victims of these awful crimes with services and relief, as the scars of trafficking are extremely difficult to erase."

"Sex trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes HSI investigates. It sickens me that someone can treat another human being like a mere commodity," said Clark Settles, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Washington, D.C. "Our special agents and law enforcement partners work tirelessly to eradicate sex trafficking–no one should have to endure the horrors associated with this crime."

"The Albemarle County Police Department takes human trafficking very seriously. We are working with our federal, state and local partners to uproot human trafficking in our community. This is an example of successful multi-jurisdictional collaboration," said Colonel Steve Sellers, chief of police for the Albemarle County Police Department.

According to evidence previously presented at trial, Coello-Ordonez traveled to Honduras in February 2010 and soon thereafter met the victim, a 17-year-old Honduras citizen. The two soon became boyfriend and girlfriend. The defendant promised the victim he could get her a waitressing job in Harrisonburg. Consequently, in August 2010, days before the victim's 18th birthday, the defendant smuggled her into the United States.

Upon arrival in Harrisonburg, it soon became clear to the victim that the defendant was involved in the operation of a prostitution ring, which consisted of brothels located in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville. It became equally clear there was no waitressing job for the victim. After several months, the defendant told the victim she had to work as a prostitute and have sex with men to earn money. The victim refused. As a result, the defendant verbally and physically abused her.

The defendant slapped, kicked and punched the victim until she agreed.

From January 2011 to July 2011, the defendant forced the victim to work as a prostitute at his brothels in Virginia, as well as brothels operated by others in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The victim was forced to have sex with as many as 30 men a day.

On July 16, 2011, the victim called 911 several times because the defendant was beating her. When the police arrived, the victim began to shake uncontrollably and told police the defendant physically assaulted her. The victim sustained multiple bruises, and her right eye was swollen shut.

Law enforcement arrested the defendant, and HSI placed the victim in a shelter for human trafficking victims.

The Albemarle County Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of State Diplomatic Security, the Hyattsville Police Department in Maryland, the Virginia Fusion Center, the Computer Crimes Division of the Virginia Attorney General's Office, the Virginia State Police, the Harrisonburg Police Department and the University of Virginia Women's Center assisted with the investigation.

Updated: 10/15/2014