DOJ: ‘Brutal’ Mexican crime family has been trafficking young women to Alabama, forcing them to engage in prostitution
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez is being arraigned via videoconference on Friday afternoon in New York City on a 12-count indictment.
Also known as “Norberto Hernandez Velasquez” and “La Gallina,” Hernandez-Velazquez, along with his siblings Arcelia (also known as “La Gordis”) and Ernesto (also known as “Chapas”), are charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling, money laundering, and related offenses.
This comes after Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez was arrested on a provisional arrest warrant in August and finally extradited earlier this week from Mexico to the United States. His familial co-defendants were previously arrested in New York in November 2019 and are currently awaiting trial.
A release from the DOJ outlined that the indictment charges that since at least 2001, the Hernandez-Velazquez Trafficking Organization, a family organization based in Mexico, has used force, fraud and coercion to cause young women from Mexico to engage in prostitution in the United States, including in Alabama.
“Members of the organization lured victims into romantic relationships through false promises of love and support,” the DOJ wrote. “Victims were taken to the homes of members of the organization in Tenancingo, Mexico, where they were often not allowed to leave the home and not allowed to contact their families. The victims were pressured to travel to the United States with promises of a better life with their trafficker. After the young women were smuggled into the United States, members of the organization transported them to various states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, to engage in prostitution. In addition, the organization maintained a base of operations in Queens, New York. Members of the organization used violence, including physical beatings and forced abortions, and threatened violence to the victims’ families to force the victims to continue prostituting. The prostitution proceeds were sent to members of the organization in Mexico through wire transfers and cash shipments.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme for the Eastern District of New York and Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, announced the charges.
“For nearly two decades, the defendants lured young women into a brutal life of forced prostitution through false promises of a better life,” said DuCharme. “This Office will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to end the illegal exploitation of young women and in holding the defendants to account for their crimes and the lasting harm they have inflicted on their victims.”
As in all criminal cases, the charges in the indictment should be considered as allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
“Words can’t describe the type of person who preys on and victimizes women by forcing them into prostitution while using violence to maintain control over them,” stated Fitzhugh. “Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez and his organization did just that, treating women as mere commodities meant to be bought and sold rather than as human beings deserving of respect. As human trafficking operates in darkness, HSI works tirelessly to rescue victims out of the shadows as we investigate and hold accountable those who exploit and victimize others for their own financial advantage.”
If convicted of the charges, the defendants face life imprisonment.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn