Federal authorities have busted a statewide sex trafficking ring in which Central American women said they were smuggled into Florida and forced into prostitution in Jacksonville and other cities.
The women were brought to Florida under the guise of getting work as maids or bartenders but were forced into prostitution at apartment complexes in Jacksonville, Tampa, Tallahassee and Orlando, according to an arrest affidavit signed by Senior Special Agent William Maxey of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
An indictment unsealed last week in Tallahassee said the women were rotated from city to city and required to have multiple sex acts with multiple partners every day. Federal prosecutors said the men promoted the prostitution ring with business cards and cell phones and kept the $30 per sex act the women were told to charge. The women were picked up in Texas, the indictment says.
A fifth man, also from Colombia, was convicted by a Tallahassee jury in May of seven related counts. Jorge Wilmar Melchor is awaiting sentencing Oct. 15.
Melchor was arrested in 2006 after two Guatemalan women fled his Tallahassee home and told a neighbor they were being forced to work as prostitutes. The women testified they were taken to apartment complexes populated by alien workers, said Melchor's attorney, Armando Garcia.
"My understanding of how this works is they service strictly the Latin community," Garcia said Tuesday.
Witnesses interviewed for Melchor's case told agents about others involved in human trafficking in other cities, including Carlos Andres Monsalve, who Maxey testified ran the organization from Tampa. He said Monsalve began smuggling women into the United States in 2005 and told them they had to work as prostitutes to pay his smuggling fees.
Also arrested were:
- Fabio Perez, a Colombian immigrant who witnesses said drove prostitutes to and from Jacksonville and ran the organization in Monsalve's absence;
- Jorge Enrique Londono, also known as Alvara Prado, who agents said formerly ran the Jacksonville end of the ring; and
- Luz Karime Ramos Teran, also known as La Negra, who prosecutors said housed women in Jacksonville.
A sixth defendant, whose name has been kept secret and who is cooperating with agents, told Maxey he normally met Londono and Perez between Jacksonville and Tampa for the purpose of exchanging prostitutes.
Garcia estimated about two dozen women were involved in the ring. He said he argued during Melchor's trial that the women were willing participants.
"He was a pimp. He was not a smuggler," Garcia said.
North Florida is already fast becoming a goldmine for drug traffickers, thanks in large part to the fact that it is pretty much a halfway point between Miami and Atlanta. And prostitution by no means is something new here, but an illegal immigrant prostitution ring -- especially one with women who are being abducted, trafficked, and then used as unwilling sex slaves? That makes me thrilled.
Of course, there's a simple way to fix this problem.
Deport. Them. All. Now.
Whether these women are willing participants or not (and I don't believe that they were), prostitution is still illegal. These men became criminals just by crossing the border, and then expounded upon that by creating a prostitution ring. They have ZERO right to remain in this country.
Illegal immigrants should be deported just for being in the country illegally, but once they become criminals, there's no reason to allow them to stay. The cost is too high.
The list of their victims grows longer every day, and even in post 9-11 America, our government does not seem to understand the importance of closing the borders and deporting illegal immigrants. They won't even deport the illegal immigrants who are criminals!
Will these men be slapped on the wrist and released back into society? The way our government handles these criminals, that's probably exactly what will happen. They'll do some jail time and will be released, to perhaps start up a new prostitution ring. Some might progress to trafficking drugs, raping, or murdering.
There are so many cases of illegal immigrants getting arrested for petty crimes, being released, and then going on to rape and kill innocent Americans all across the country.
How will the state of Florida handle these disgusting criminals?
If you haven't yet, visit Deport Them Now! and add your name. Let the government know that this game of catch-and-release needs to stop. NOW.