GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador — A Cuban national linked to a human trafficking ring allegedly responsible for trafficking Cuban women to Ecuador and forcing them into prostitution was removed July 17 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations officers from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Yoeldis Melian-Mastrapa, 29, is the latest removal among eight Cuban nationals implicated in a human trafficking ring that allegedly operated in Ecuador. The ring was discovered in December 2013 as a result of a joint investigation between ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Attaché Office in Ecuador and the Ecuadorian government.
According to an Interpol warrant, between Oct. 17, 2013, and April 9, 2014, Melian-Mastrapa and his co-conspirators recruited and arranged for the transportation of Cuban women to Ecuador. Once in Ecuador, the women were threatened if they refused to work as prostitutes.
All eight individuals fled to the United States in an attempt to avoid prosecution in Ecuador. Five of the fugitives were arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after attempting to enter the United States at the southern border. They were later transferred to ERO custody for removal proceedings. The remaining three fugitives were located and arrested by ERO officers.
If convicted, Melian-Mastrapa, faces up to 16 years imprisonment in Ecuador.
To date, through the work of ICE ERO and HSI, five of the eight Cubans wanted in Ecuador have been successfully removed to Ecuador. Among them was Alay Wong-Herrera and Juan Carlos Rodriguez-De la Osa, who were linked to the ring, and who have already been convicted and sentenced in Ecuador to 10 years imprisonment, respectively. Also previously removed were Roberto Izaguirre and Luis Campos-Aguila. Both are in Ecuador awaiting the outcome of their criminal cases.
Three remaining fugitives – Boris Santana-Rodriguez, Camilo Fonseca-Garrido and Rosali Rodriguez-Remon – are in ICE custody awaiting removal to Ecuador.
Through ICE's Office of International Operations and the U.S. Department of State, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has 63 attaché offices in 46 countries around the world. HSI special agents and ERO officers work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies and through a robust network of specialized, vetted units known as Transnational Criminal Investigative Units.