Thursday, May 1, 2008

Texas: Houston Man Imprisoned for Immigrant Prostitution Case

HOUSTON, TEXAS - A Houston man was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison for forcing illegal immigrants to work as prostitutes to pay off smuggling debts.

Victor Omar Lopez was the fifth among eight defendants punished for participating in a human smuggling ring believed to be one of the country's largest.

In his plea deal, Lopez admitted to conspiracy to commit servitude and related trafficking, and to a second conspiracy count involving immigrant smuggling.

During the scheme, which began in November 2001, women and girls were smuggled into the United States under the pretense of legitimate wait staff jobs. Instead, to pay off their transportation debt, as many as 120 were forced to have sex with patrons of northwest-side cantinas owned or operated by Lopez, his brothers and others.

Lopez and his brothers, Maximino "Chimino" Mondragon and Oscar Mondragon, earned money from the servitude of the women, who were brought from Central America with the help of co-defendant Walter Alexander Corea, an admitted smuggler.

The conspirators used fear and violence to keep the women under their control. Those who have pleaded guilty have admitted to sexual assault, increasing the smuggling debts and threatening to harm relatives abroad if the women did not pay...


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