BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Five men who operated a family-run sex trafficking ring from Mexico to New York were sentenced to long prison terms Thursday evening.
Some of the victims were as young as 14, according to United States Attorney Breon Peace. The ring was trafficking teens and young women for more than a decade — between 2006 and July 2017.
Jose Miguel Melendez-Rojas, 45, received the harshest sentence of 39 years and six months. His brothers, Jose Osvaldo and Rosalio, were close behind, each getting hit with terms of 39 years and four months. Two other relatives received sentences of 20-plus years.
Six victims testified at the trial in Brooklyn federal court, describing lives of “torment, misery, sexual abuse, and prostitution,” according to the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations.
One of the victims, identified as “Veronica,” said Jose Miguel Melendez-Rojas threatened to “chop her mother up into little pieces” if she balked at doing sex work. Another victim, “Diana,” said when she tried to escape, Melendez-Rojas beat and raped her in front of other members of the household. Prosecutors said the defendants used false promises of love, marriage and a better life to lure the young Mexican victims into sexual relationships, before forcing them into prostitution.
The victims were taken from their family homes in Tenancingo, Mexico and initially brought to the defendants’ houses. From there, the girls were smuggled into the United States and coerced into sex work in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.
Since 2009, the Department of Justice and Homeland Security have worked with Mexican law enforcement to crack down on human trafficking rings. U.S. authorities have prosecuted more than 170 traffickers in Georgia, New York, Florida and Texas.
The Eastern District in New York has indicted more than 100 defendants and helped more than 180 victims, including more than 40 minors, according to the Office of United States Attorney Breon Peace. The Eastern District said 19 victims’ children have been reunited with their mothers and more than $4 million dollars has been secured on behalf of trafficking victims.
Peace said the lengthy sentences “reflect the immeasurable harm the defendants’ brutality and exploitation inflicted on these young women and girls, and the commitment of this Office and its law enforcement partners to combatting human trafficking in all its forms.”
One of the co-defendants in the case, Fabian Reyes-Rojas, 42, pleaded guilty in 2019 and will be sentenced in March.