For more than seven years, the Lopez brothers held four teenagers from Mexico captive and forced them to prostitute themselves in the United States and Mexico. The men were arrested in Mexico in 2011 and brought to the United States. Friday morning they were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Between January 2003 and August 2010, Benito Lopez-Perez, Jose Gabino Barrientos-Perez and Anastastio Romero-Perez, forced four women to prostitute themselves in Mexico and the U.S. Lopez-Perez and Romero-Perez were sentenced to 18 years in prison and Barrientos- Perez was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Each man’s term will be followed by five years of parole.
“We hope that these sentences bring some measure of closure to the victims as they attempt to heal from the mental and physical abuse inflicted by the defendants,” said United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
Sex trafficking in the U.S. has a minimum sentence of 10 years with the most severe penalty being life in prison.
“The individuals sentenced today exploited and enslaved women for personal profit while terrifying and traumatizing them through rape, violence, and intimidation,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. “No prison sentence can ever do justice for the pain and suffering experienced by these victims, but knowing that justice has been served on their tormentors will hopefully allow for the beginning of a healing process that these women so justly deserve.”
When the women were 14 and 15 years old, the brothers romanced and promised to marry them but instead forced them into sex with strangers. They beat and assaulted the women into submission and punished them when they did not earn enough money, according to court documents from 2012.
In 2005, the Lopez brothers smuggled the women from Mexico to the U.S. where their nightmare continued. Each day livery cabs, in collusion with the brothers, would drive the women to meet clients across New York and other states.
One of the victims, unnamed in court documents, was abducted after going to the movies with a group of friends. Lopez-Perez, a friend of one of these friends, raped her in his family’s home. After trafficking her in Mexico, he then brought her illegally into the U.S. where she was forced to serve 40 men a day. Another victim was trafficked by her husband and the father of her child, Barrientos-Perez.
These women were kept in apartments across New York City, from the Bronx to Long Island to Chinatown, reported The Examiner, and sold on the street using “chica cards” handed to passersby, according to CBS.
To ensure their total dependence the brothers took away their captives’ money and threatened to hurt their families in Mexico if they ran away. They were also forced to regularly wire money to the brothers’ family in Mexico using fake names.
Tenancingo, the town in Mexico where the brother grew up, has become infamous for its involvement in prostitution.
According to the Polaris Project, children as young as 12 are being trafficked in the United States. The project has found victims of forced commercial sex in residential brothels, strip clubs, escort services, hostess clubs and fake massage businesses. Some of the Latino trafficking networks also have ties to Latino gangs.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, received over 31,900 calls in the last year, nearly a third of these calls were high-risk calls.