Monday, January 25, 2010

Feds: Bar owner forced teenage girls to work as sex slaves (The Monitor)

Feds: Bar owner forced teenage girls to work as sex slaves

January 14, 2010 9:10 PM
Jeremy Roebuck and Jared Taylor
The Monitor

MISSION — A soiled white teddy bear and empty condom wrapper left at the now abandoned home on Lusby Street provide a stark reminder of what investigators believe went on there.

The nondescript structure northwest of the city served as home base for a group of teenage Honduran girls who claim they were forced into prostitution to pay off the debts they incurred when smuggled into the country.

And behind their servitude, law enforcement officials say, was a man who put them to work in his bar and for his customers.

“All three were forced to work ten hours a day, six days a week and were paid $20 per day,” U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Anson Luna wrote in the criminal complaint filed in the case. “All monies made were … supposedly applied to their debt.”

ICE agents raided the home Wednesday and discovered three girls ranging in age from 14 to 17.

Each told a similar story, according to court documents. They were brought from their home country to the United States by a man who told them they could pay off their $4,000 to $4,500 smuggling fees by working in a Rio Grande Valley restaurant where they would be “well taken care of.”

Instead, once they arrived they were kept under guard in the Lusby Street home and forced to work at El Paraiso Bar, a night club owned by 34-year-old Mexican national Beleal Garcia Gonzalez, the complaint states.

Garcia would often sell his wards for sex to his customers, night club employees told authorities.

A day after the raid, federal authorities remained tight-lipped about how they were first tipped off to the stash house. But the remnants of what they found there lay scattered about the premises.

Stiletto heels and gold-spangled purses were abandoned next to stuffed animals. A toy machine gun rested on a kitchen counter, next to half-eaten plates of food.

Both Garcia and a bartender at El Paraiso, 22-year-old Elizabeth Mendez Vasquez now face charges of harboring illegal immigrants — a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison upon conviction. Each remained in federal custody Thursday pending a detention hearing scheduled for next week.

It was unclear whether either had retained an attorney.

But as neighbor Marcos Segovia surveyed their rented home from his front yard across the street Thursday, he remembered the girls in high heels who returned to the residence late each night.

“We never saw any of their faces,” he said. “You never know what you get with the neighbors.”

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