YONKERS, N.Y. – Thirteen people were arrested in a human trafficking and prostitution ring that operated a brothel in Yonkers, among other places, according to federal prosecutors.
Since 2008, a network of sex traffickers exploited dozens of women, some of whom were trafficked from Mexico to New York and forced to engage in prostitution, federal prosecutors said.
Search warrants were executed in six locations Tuesday as part of a sting, including brothels on Elm Street in Yonkers, Queens, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, officials said. Arrests were also made as far away as Delaware and Maryland.
“With promises of a better life, the members of this alleged sex trafficking and prostitution ring lured their unsuspecting victims to the United States and then consigned them to a living hell,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Prosecutors said the men typically lured the women to New York City from Tenancingo, Mexico with promises of a better life and by engaging them in romantic relationships.
Once in the United States, federal officials said the women were forced into prostitution, living in “abhorrent” conditions as they were often beaten, sexually assaulted and threatened with harm to themselves and family members.
In one instance, a woman in Queens was locked outside on a cold winter night, along with her young child, when she refused to work as a prostitute, prosecutors said.
The women were circulated between the various brothels and forced to give all the money to their traffickers, authorities said. They were also provided with birth control and in some cases, the trafficker made them take a drug to induce a miscarriage if they were suspected to be pregnant, officials said.
Prosecutors said in December a customer of the Elm Street brothel was arrested along with the admitted door-man. Valentin Jiamez-Dolores, 22, of Queens told police he collected $30 from each customer in return for a playing card that was then exchanged for 15 minutes of sex, prosecutors said.
As recently as April 22 prosecutors intercepted phone calls in which a second defendant and manager of the Yonkers brothel, Bonifacio Flores-Mendez, 33, of Queens, provided customers with information on the women’s appearance, authorities said.
All of the individuals charged in the ring Tuesday are either currently incarcerated or reside in Queens, with the exception of one man from Delaware. At least two members of the ring were also charged with illegal re-entry after having been previously kicked out of the country.
Several defendants were expected to appear Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Flores-Mendez could face up to life in prison if convicted of sex-trafficking and other charges, and Jiamez-Dolores could spend up to 5 years in prison if convicted of lesser charges, officials said.
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