WASHINGTON – Six defendants were sentenced on Tuesday in the Eastern District of Virginia to a combined 81 years in prison for their respective roles in the sex trafficking of a minor victim and an adult victim at multiple locations in Northern Virginia and Maryland in 2018 and 2019.
From April 2018 through Jan. 14, 2019, five of the defendants sex trafficked a minor victim throughout Virginia and Maryland. The minor was housed at multiple hotels in Alexandria and Fairfax for the purposes of commercial sex, and the defendants advertised the minor victim through various means, including prostitution advertisements online on Bedpage.com, CityXGuide.com, and Backpage.com (shortly before it was seized by the federal government). They also advertised the minor victim through the communications platform WhatsApp by sending her picture out to a list-serve of known customers. As a form of grooming, the male defendants engaged in sexual intercourse with the minor. As a form of enticement, the defendants permitted the minor to keep about 50 percent of the commercial sex proceeds while the defendants collected the remaining 50 percent.
“Sex traffickers often prey upon the most vulnerable victims in our society and intentionally exploit those vulnerabilities,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The damage inflicted upon children through this form of sexual exploitation is immeasurable. The victim—survivors are subject to multiple forms of mental, physical, and emotional trauma, the scars of which never fully fade. The minor victim in this case was particularly vulnerable, and her traffickers used fear, coercion, and control to abuse and exploit her entire being for profit. We will remain dogged in our pursuit of all those who perpetrate this modern day slavery.”
“Human traffickers treat human life like property, exploiting and extorting for profit,” said Raymond Villanueva, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. “This case shows the callous greed traffickers exhibit, ensnaring children and forcing them into sexual exploitation. HSI is committed to investigating and seeking prosecution of human traffickers alongside our federal and local partners.”
“These sentencings underscore the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable those who prey upon innocent victims for their own greed,” said James A. Dawson, special agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “In full collaboration with our task force partners throughout the area, the FBI will continue to work tirelessly to stop criminals such as these, and prevent them from abusing children and vulnerable individuals while profiting from illicit acts. The FBI will remain focused on recovering victims and arresting the sex traffickers who exploit them, and we will not stop working to remove these offenders from the streets of our communities.”
“The actions of these defendants are quite frankly reprehensible as they’ve purposely preyed upon our most vulnerable and impressionable victims for far too long,” said Edwin C. Roessler Jr., chief of Fairfax County Police. “From the onset of this investigation, federal prosecutors and agents teamed up with Fairfax County officers and detectives to methodically pursue justice for these young victims and worked to ensure no other families could be torn apart by the unspeakable conduct of our defendants.”
“The successful conclusion of this case was due, in part, to the collaborative efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors, in addition to, the courageousness of the victims,” said Jarad L. Phelps, acting chief of police for Prince William County. “Sex trafficking targets our most vulnerable community members and it’s upon us all to report and investigate these matters efficiently to ensure the victims receive justice and begin the healing process. With each prosecution, a message is sent to sex traffickers that this type of exploitation will not be tolerated. We encourage any victim of trafficking to please come forward and take the brave step to stop this abuse.”
In January 2019, members of the conspiracy, including defendant Fatima Ventura Perez, recruited an adult victim to fly from Miami to Reagan National Airport to work in a brothel apartment in Laurel, Maryland. Ventura-Perez also sent out advertisements of the adult victim and the minor victim on her commercial sex customer listserve via WhatsApp, resulting in numerous men arriving at the apartment to have sex, with each victim being sexually exploited by over 50 men each. The minor victim and the adult victim were sold for sex out of that brothel apartment. On Jan. 14, 2019, law enforcement recovered both victims at the brothel apartment, which was leased by Ventura Perez.
For their involvement in the conspiracy Elvis Pichardo Hernandez was sentenced to 13 years, Jose David Reyes-Gonzalez to 14 years, Daniel Palacios Rodriguez to 16 years, Alexandra Guzman-Beato to 16 years, Juan Rufino Martinez-Dominguez to 15 ½ years, and Fatima Ventura Perez was sentenced to 6 ½ years.
Significant assistance was provided by the Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department, New York Police Department, Newark Police Department, FBI Baltimore Field Office, FBI New York Field Office, and FBI Newark Field Office.
This case was investigated in by HSI’s Washington field office in partnership with FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, composed of FBI agents and local, state and federal partners.
While human trafficking can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries, indicators of trafficking activities often look the same across most cases.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying a victim and can help save a life. It is often a hidden crime, and victims may be afraid to come forward and get help. It is vital that ICE continue to spread the word and educate the public to be aware of the signs so that victims can be identified, and traffickers brought to justice.
In fiscal year 2019, HSI arrested 2,197 individuals in connection with human trafficking. From those cases, more than 400 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical assistance.
Specialists with the agency’s Victim Assistance Program assess a victim’s needs and work with law enforcement to integrate victim assistance considerations throughout a criminal investigation. HSI can also assist a victim in getting a short-term immigration relief called Continued Presence, which is available only upon request by law enforcement. In the absence of other resources, DHS has an emergency assistance fund which is available for emergency victim assistance needs.
Bystanders play a unique role in identifying and preventing this crime. If you notice suspicious activity, please contact ICE through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or ice.gov/tips.