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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Man tied to outdoor brothel sentenced to more than 20 years for sex trafficking

Victims were forced into prostitution in remote canyon in North County

SAN DIEGO - A previously deported Mexican national has been sentenced to more than 24 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution to women he trafficked into the United States and forced to work as prostitutes in a remote Valley Center canyon where he ran an outdoor brothel.

Adrian Zitlapopoca, 33, of Tlaxcala, Mexico, was sentenced Monday to 292 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Rodger T. Benitez. Zitlapopoca, who was previously deported in 2004, was arrested in November 2008 in Vista, Calif., by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and San Diego County sheriff's deputies. Following his arrest, an ongoing joint investigation revealed he had harbored two women in separate residences whom he had trafficked into the United States for the purpose of prostitution.

At Zitlapopoca's trial, the two women testified he had separately romanced them when they met in their hometown in central Mexico. The women told the jury they were introduced to his family as his "wife," then coerced into prostitution and eventually smuggled into the United States to continue in prostitution. The women also testified they were in love with Zitlapocoa, who was 10 years their senior, and that he used that love to control them. The woman said they were threatened with violence if they did something Zitlapocoa did not like and one of the woman testified Zitlapocoa assaulted her when she tried to keep the prostitution proceeds.

"We are extremely satisfied that justice prevailed in this important case," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "It is our hope that this successful prosecution will serve as a deterrent to traffickers and a message of hope to victims who may seek the protection of the law, regardless of their status or station."

U.S. Attorney Duffy commended the outstanding efforts of the agents and deputies in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.

"While this criminal sentencing underscores ICE's commitment to combating transnational sex trafficking, it's not enough until we reach the day when we won't have to investigate these kinds of cases at all," said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in San Diego. "Until that day, we will continue working to target the ruthless criminals who seek to profit from violating the law and the dignity of another human being."

"This is another example of law enforcement cooperation within San Diego County," explained San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. "This will send a message to other criminal entrepreneurs both in Mexico and the United States: these illicit endeavors will not be tolerated."

At a news conference last week, ICE Director John Morton joined other leaders from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, D.C., to announce DHS's joint Blue Campaign, a united initiative to raise public awareness about human trafficking through education and reporting guidelines. Morton outlined the law enforcement strategies ICE is using to combat this form of modern-day slavery.

For more details on the DHS Blue Campaign, please visit this website:

A fact sheet on ICE's involvement in the Blue Campaign is available at: