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October 28, 2011Alexandria, VA, United StatesChild Exploitation

MS-13 gang member sentenced to life in prison for child sex trafficking

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An El Salvadoran national and MS-13 gang member was sentenced to life in prison for prostituting a 12-year-old female to clients throughout northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. The sentence was the result of investigative work by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) Gang Unit with assistance from the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.

Jose Ciro Juarez-Santamaria, 24, was convicted by a federal jury on July 28, 2011 for conspiracy, sex trafficking and transportation of a minor for prostitution.

"Mr. Juarez-Santamaria and his MS-13 accomplices had no regard for the human dignity of the young victim in this case," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI field office in Washington, D.C. "Cases like this demonstrate the importance of steadfast dedication by ICE HSI and the law enforcement community to protect the people of the D.C. metro area from transnational gangs and the criminal activity they perpetrate."

According to court records and evidence at trial, Juarez-Santamaria joined MS-13 while in El Salvador. He was a member of the Pinos Locos clique of MS-13 and known by the gang as "Sniper." At a Halloween party in Oxon Hill, Md., on Oct. 31, 2009, Juarez-Santamaria met a 12-year-old runaway who asked for his help in finding a place to stay. Instead, Juarez-Santamaria began prostituting the victim throughout the Washington D.C.-area the very next day.

The victim was prostituted from October to December 2009, providing sex for money every day of the week. Evidence at trial showed that Juarez-Santamaria generally charged $40 for 15 minutes of sex, but he would sometimes charge more depending on what the customer wanted. The prostitution took place at various businesses, homes, apartments and hotels in and around northern Virginia. Juarez-Santamaria also admitted to having sex with the victim and allowed MS-13 gang members to have sex with her free of charge. To keep the victim compliant, Juarez-Santamaria and others would supply her with alcohol and marijuana.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.

This enforcement operation is part of Operation Community Shield, a global initiative, in which ICE HSI partners with existing federal, state, local and foreign anti-gang efforts to share intelligence on criminal gang organizations and their leadership, share resources and combine legal authorities to identify, locate, arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members.

ICE HSI began rolling out Operation Community Shield Task Forces (OCSTFs) throughout the nation as well as in Central America in 2010. There are currently eight OCSTFs in cities including Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Salt Lake City; San Angelo, Texas; and St. Paul, Minn., as well as one in Honduras. These critical law enforcement partnerships enable ICE HSI to target gangs throughout the globe.

The National Gang Unit within ICE HSI identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements. It deters, disrupts and dismantles transnational criminal gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from illicit activities.