Three brothers, a nephew and a cousin were convicted of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling and money laundering conspiracy in federal court last Friday.
Between 2006 and July 2017, the men — Jose Miguel Melendez-Rojas, 43, Francisco Melendez-Perez, 25, Abel Romero-Melendez, 33, Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas, 43, and Rosalio Melendez-Rojas, 38 — transported women and girls, including minors, to the United States and coerced them to work in prostitution, according to the Eastern District of New York.
The men used false promises of love, marriage and a better life to lure victims into romantic and sexual relationships, and then isolated them from their families by bringing them to live with the defendants in Tenancingo, Mexico.
Upon the victims’ arrival in the U.S., the men resorted to “brutal beatings, threats of violence, forced abortions and psychological manipulation” to get them to work in prostitution in the city, on Long Island and in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware. The men took the money generated from the prostitution and laundered it to conceal its source.
The defendants lived in apartments in Flushing and Corona and would take the women and girls to clients’ houses.
At the trial, a victim identified as “Delia” testifed that she was forced into prostitution by Melendez-Perez and his uncle Rosalio Melendez-Rojas when she was 14. When she refused to work, Melendez-Perez beat her, and when he thought she might be pregnant, he tried to force her to have a miscarriage.
During six- to seven-hour work shifts, the victims were typically forced to have sex with 15 to 20 men. The criminals confirmed the number of customers by counting the number of unused condoms returned at the end of the victims’ shifts.
“The crimes committed by the members of the Melendez-Rojas Trafficking Organization were horrific,” said Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison on the most serious charge.
“The atrocities this organization committed against young women, robbing them of their youth and forcing them to work as prostitutes, are disgraceful,” said Peter Fitzhugh, special agent-in-charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations. “It is my hope that today’s verdicts bring some measure of closure to the young women who bravely testified during the trial and who suffered greatly while under the control of the defendants.”