LOS ANGELES - Nine Guatemalans were indicted for their roles in an alleged sex trafficking ring that lured young women to the United States with promises of good jobs and then forced them into prostitution, according to federal court records.
Four of the defendants pleaded not guilty in January to sex trafficking charges in the case. A superseding indictment, unsealed Thursday, includes more serious allegations that five of the 12 victims were minors.
According to the new 50-count indictment, the defendants at times sold Guatemalan women and girls to one another like slaves and allegedly brought the victims to witch doctors who threatened to put curses on them and their families if they ran away.
"These young women were enticed into coming to this country by promises of the American dream only to arrive and discover that what awaited was a nightmare," said Robert Schoch, a special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned the indictment against Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela, 36; her sisters, Mirna Jeanneth, 26, and Albertina, 49; and Albertina's daughter, Maria Vicente de los Angeles, 28.
The four face charges of sex trafficking of minors; sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion; violating federal laws prohibiting interstate or foreign transport of minors for prostitution; and importing and harboring undocumented immigrants and harboring them for prostitution.
Five others also were charged in the indictment for their roles in the scheme, including guarding the women to prevent them from escaping, threatening their families in Guatemala, and beating and forcing the women to work, authorities said.
Four of the female defendants were arrested in December during raids in Los Angeles. One additional suspect, Flor Morales Sanchez, 33, was arrested Thursday. Six defendants remain in custody without bond. Another, Maribel Rodriguez Vasquez, is a fugitive.
A lawyer representing Luis Vicente Vasquez, 31, who faces counts of bringing women into the country illegally for prostitution, denies his client did anything wrong.
"We are going to court on this," attorney Philip Deitch said.
Attorney Errol Stambler, who represents Mirna Jeanneth Vasquez, said his client was a victim, not a trafficker. He said his own investigation revealed she had been forced into prostitution to repay smugglers who brought her to the U.S, and that her pimp forced her to house teenage prostitutes.
Messages left with two other attorneys representing defendants were not immediately returned. The investigation began last year when two victims escaped with the help of a male customer and contacted authorities, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Two other victims were rescued by investigators in November. Ten women at the locations raided also were believed to have been working as prostitutes.
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Civil War produced about 970,000 casualties (3% of the population), including approximately 620,000 soldier deathsâtwo-thirds by disease. The war accounted for more casualties than all other U.S. wars combined.
Hanging is too benign of a punishment for any slaver!
Uhhh -- isn't this mid-America? Not Iraq? Adding additional police to quell violence? I'm willing to bet a nickle (being the bettin' woman that I am) that there are more shooting deaths in this good ole USA daily than in Iraq. Tied to those illegals we hear about? I vote YES.
Listening to San Antonio talk radio on my afternoon commute, police are now 24/7 in some areas... gang wars are happening....
Mayor Mike Fahey wants to add surveillance cameras in violent areas, boost the Police Department units that serve those neighborhoods and stiffen local gun laws in response to the spike in gun violence that has left nearly 40 people wounded in shootings since July 1.
The mayor delivered his ideas today as the city marked a period of peace - 44 hours and counting without a shooting. A record that is now being kept throughout the USA. Sad. Not only do we get the daily report of the number of deaths in Iraq, that number is followed at the local levels, of how many days since we have had a shooting. Thirty-one people were hit by gunfire in July, including an 18-year-old killed outside a northwest Omaha apartment complex.
Six more people have been wounded and one man was killed in shootings this month.
The mayor's immediate plans to quell the violence include adding three officers to the gang unit - two permanently - and four officers to patrol the parts of Omaha that need it most until the violence calms.
The biggest bank in the virtual world of Second Life has closed its doors after a run on its deposits, putting at risk hundred of thousands of real dollars of savings and investments.
On Thursday, Ginko Financial - which is owned by Brazilian from Sao Paulo whose real name is Andre Sanchez - stopped accepting deposits, froze all withdrawals and converted account holders' balances into "tradeable debt securities" called Ginko Perpetual Bonds.
The bonds can be bought and sold on the World Stock Exchange (WSE), the largest of three sharemarkets in Second Life. The exchange is run by a Melbourne-based man whose real name is Luke Connell.
Ginko attracted deposits by offering to pay 0.10 per cent daily accrued interest, which equates to a 44 per cent annual return.
The bank claimed to have 18,000 accounts and deposits amounting to $US700,000 ($A800,000) in real money. The in-world currency in Second Life is called the Linden ($L) and it is freely convertible into US dollars at an exchange rate of $L270 to the dollar.
The idea of unilaterally converting deposits into bonds is to buy time for the bank to replenish its cash reserves. Account holders can still opt to withdraw their funds, but instead of receiving par value as a depositor, they will only receive the market value of the security. Currently, they are trading at a steep discount to their face value.
"There are a lot of people who put money in there and they are not going to get it out again," said Robert Bloomfield, a professor of management and accounting at Cornell University and a close observer of the Second Life economy. "For some of those people it's enough money that it's actually meaningful to them."
In a note posted on the Ginko Financial website and on its network of virtual ATMs, the bank said it had been forced to take the action after a run on its deposits that was triggered by a recent decision by Second Life's owners to ban gambling in the virtual world.
San Francisco-based Linden Lab ordered the ban after reportedly inviting the FBI to examine gambling activities in its 3D world. Legislation passed in the US last year makes it a crime to use credit cards or online payment systems to make bets on the internet.
The Ginko notice said the bank began "experiencing a wave of withdrawals" after the ban was announced on July 26.
"This led the funds we keep in reserve for day to day use to be exhausted, which evolved into a full blown panic depleting even our last line of cash reserves and resulting in the current situation, with about L$50,000,000 [$US185,000] queued up for withdrawal."
As a child playing with white mambas - the rule we had was a severed head wasn't dead until the next morning. Partially severed were better with a stake holding the body in the ground until the next day or the cat ate it.
San Francisco city officials are trying to force taxpayers to pay for immigrants' green cards and citizenship and to bolster their case for the new tax, they've introduced a resolution condemning national radio talk-show host Michael Savage for what they call his "defamatory language ... against immigrants."
On the same day, apparently to further generate sympathy for illegal immigrants and bolster Daly's bailout effort, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval introduced a resolution condemning popular radio talk-show host Michael Savage, a mainstay of the San Francisco airways for years. Gerardo Sandoval intends to have a mob of at least 400 illegal immigrants bussed to the San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday and the radio station that Michael Savage records his daily show on Wednesday. Will the US government (ICE) show up to round these illegals?
I agree, Savage is inconsistant. Too inconsistant for me. One day he's all for Bush and the next day the world is ending because we have Bush in charge. Half of it's for show, just to be provocative, but I'm not sure which half.
Savage grew up in the Bronx. He's crass, crusty, tells you what he thinks. Libs can't stand that, not PC enough.
The illegal allien college students went on a hunger strike, demanding citizenship when they finish college. Savage said, you are starving yourselves, go ahead. Sandoval and San Francisco couldn't stand that kind of straight talk. Wasn't what these types wanted to hear. Of course, immediately after the news conference, I'm sure the students got a taco and went home. The hunger strike was another "third world' or should I say, southern Mexico, lie.
A multi-volume chronology and reference guide set detailing three years of the Mexican Drug War between 2010 and 2012.
Rantburg.com and borderlandbeat.com correspondent and author Chris Covert presents his first non-fiction work detailing
the drug and gang related violence in Mexico.
Chris gives us Mexican press dispatches of drug and gang war violence
over three years, presented in a multi volume set intended to chronicle the death, violence and mayhem which has
dominated Mexico for six years.