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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Ringleader sentenced to 35 years in prison on sex trafficking charges

Threatened to assault prostitutes and competitor pimps, and made death threats to protect and maintain prostitution businesses in Maryland

BALTIMORE — A Maryland brothel ringleader was sentenced Tuesday on sex trafficking charges following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Annapolis Police Department and the Easton Police Department.

German de Jesus Ventura, 35, a citizen of El Salvador and an illegal alien residing in Capitol Heights, Md., was sentenced to 35 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. for conspiring to transport and entice females to travel interstate for prostitution; transporting females for prostitution; enticing females to travel interstate for prostitution; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and possessing a gun in furtherance of sex trafficking.

"Since 2008, HSI Baltimore special agents have been investigating the illicit activities of German Ventura's brothel organization, which operated in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and New York," said William Winter, special agent in charge of HSI Baltimore. "As a result of this investigation, a total of five individuals were arrested for federal violations and 14 were arrested for state violations. This sentencing sends a message that HSI and other law enforcement members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force are committed to working together to investigate human trafficking and combating the violence that sex trafficking organizations are bringing to our communities, as well as working with our local non-governmental, community-based and faith-based organizations to identify, rescue and assist victims of trafficking."

According to evidence presented during his two week trial, since at least March 2008 through November 2010, Ventura and Kevin Garcia Fuertes ran brothels in Annapolis and Easton. Ventura, the ringleader, employed Fuertes to advertise and manage the brothels, and the two men shared the cash proceeds of the prostitution business. The defendants recruited and employed prostitutes, many of whom were individuals unlawfully present in the United States. Ventura arranged for vans and other vehicles to transport females within Maryland and across state lines to engage in prostitution. Ventura assaulted and threatened to use violence against one prostitute to coerce her continued participation in prostitution, from which Fuertes financially benefitted.

Ventura and Fuertes also threatened to use violence against competitor pimps. On Aug. 3, 2010, Ventura used a cell phone to send three threatening multi-media messages depicting a semi-automatic pistol, the pistol's magazine and an angel of death statue to a competitor pimp. On Nov. 3, 2010, Ventura arranged for the assault of a competitor pimp with a pistol grip shotgun. In addition to these threats, Ventura reported criminal activity of the pimps in order to divert the attention of law enforcement and facilitate his own prostitution activities. On March 13, 2010, Ventura falsely reported a kidnaping and rape to the police in order to falsely implicate another pimp with the crimes. Ventura also claimed responsibility for the murder of competitor pimp Ricardo Ramirez Riva Sept. 13, 2008, in order to intimidate the competition, as well as his own employees and prostitutes.

Ventura also sought to intimidate members of the community who assisted his prostitutes. On Sept. 1, 2009, Ventura called and threatened to kill a family who provided temporary housing to one of his prostitutes after she was arrested. He also poured gasoline on their apartment door and smashed windows from their vehicle.

On July 7, 2010, law enforcement executed a search warrant at one of Ventura's brothels located at 318 E. Dover Street in Easton and arrested Isidro Jimenez-Sanchez and Wibert Herrera-Aranda, who were working at the brothel.

On Sept. 10, Judge Quarles sentenced Kevin Garcia Fuertes, aka Kerlin Esquivel-Feuntes, 26, a citizen of Honduras and an illegal alien residing in Annapolis and Richmond, Va., to 19 years in prison. Fuertes was also convicted at trial of the conspiracy and sex trafficking charges.

Jose Antonio Reyes-Maradiaga, 30, Isidro Jiminez-Sanchez and Wibert Alejandro Herrera-Aranda, both 34, all of Easton, previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme. These defendants advertised Ventura's brothels, made appointments for the prostitutes and collected money. Reyes also helped to transport the women to the brothel locations and purchased supplies. Jiminez-Sanchez, a Mexican citizen unlawfully in the United States, was sentenced to a year and day for transporting prostitutes and upon completion of his sentence, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) deported him from the United States to Mexico. Herrera-Aranda was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Reyes was sentenced to time served. Both were also deported by ERO.

This case originated with the Annapolis Police Department and was subsequently investigated by members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders. Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members. For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit www.justice.gov/usao/md/Human-Trafficking/index.html.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys P. Michael Cunningham and Rachel M. Yasser.