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January 22, 2015Atlanta, GA, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

Sex traffickers sentenced in Atlanta for forced prostitution of foreign women

ATLANTA — Two Mexican nationals were sentenced in Atlanta Thursday for sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion two young women from Guatemala and one young woman from Mexico. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.

Arturo Rojas Coyotl, 28, of Tenancingo, Mexico, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $600 special assessment. Odilon Martinez Rojas, 43, of Tenancingo, Mexico, has been sentenced to 21 years, ten months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $600 special assessment. Each defendant was ordered to pay restitution in amount of $190,000, which will be divided between three victims.

“The defendants mercilessly manipulated, abused and exploited these women in a criminal scheme that is all too common in our communities,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, acting special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. “Sex trafficking and other forms of human trafficking are a scourge on our society that HSI is dedicated to ending.”

“Sex trafficking is a horrendous crime that robs the victims of their freedom and dignity, leaving them feeling isolated and powerless,” said Acting United States Attorney John Horn. “This case hits new lows in depravity given the number of times these girls were victimized each day. These defendants are being held accountable by U.S. laws which protect all victims of human trafficking.”

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery-- period. No matter the label, the of use violence, intimidation, psychological coercion, deception, or fear to exploit fellow human beings is repugnant,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “The long sentences handed down today are just one of the latest examples of the Justice Department's unshakable resolve to dismantle human trafficking networks and prosecute those who would commit these unspeakable crimes against some of the most vulnerable in our society." Yates’ previous service as United States Attorney from 2010 to 2015 included making her district—the Northern District of Georgia—one of several key U.S. districts engaged in the Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative.

According to information presented in court: In February 2006, Rojas Coyotl romanced a young woman in Mexico City, Mexico, telling her he loved her and wanted a life with her. He told the young woman that she should travel with him to the United States to work in a legitimate job and make money for their future life together. After smuggling the young woman across the border, he sent her to his uncle and co-defendant, Martinez Rojas. Martinez Rojas informed the victim that she was here illegally, owed a large smuggling debt, and the only way to earn the money to repay her debt was through prostitution. Rojas Coyotl and Martinez Rojas used violence and threats, fear and intimidation, trickery and deception, and emotional and psychological manipulation to compel the victim to prostitute in the Atlanta area, and in Alabama, until she managed to escape in November 2007.

In March 2007, Rojas Coyotl and Martinez started romancing two young Guatemalan women and lured them to the United States in October 2007, under the same false pretenses. The defendants then employed a nearly identical coercive scheme to compel the young women to prostitute in Georgia and Alabama before they escaped at separate times in early 2008. The defendants had made the young women fearful of law enforcement and, thus, the victims did not immediately come forward. Once investigators did find and speak to them, the details of the trafficking emerged: The defendants ran a high volume, low cost business compelling the young women to have sex, at times with upwards of 20 men a night in 15 minute increments, for payment of $30- $35. The money earned by the victims was split between the defendants and others who drove the young women to the clients. One of the young women became ill and suffered great pain due to the repeated commercial sex acts she had to endure.  

Since 2009, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative, aimed at strengthening high-impact prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law, in order to more effectively dismantle human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bring human traffickers to justice, restore the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims and reunite victims with their children held under the trafficking networks’ control. These efforts have resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of over 50 defendants in multiple cases in Georgia, New York, Florida, and Texas since 2009, in addition to numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers.

A third co-defendant, Daniel Garcia-Tepal, pleaded guilty to related immigration offenses. A fourth co-defendant, Severiano Martinez-Rojas, remains a fugitive.

If anyone has information pertaining to human trafficking, they are encouraged to call the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the local office of the FBI at 404-679-9000.

Assistant United States Attorney Susan Coppedge and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Benjamin J. Hawk of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case.