DOJ busts migrant sex trafficking ring between Cuba and Houston

Three Cuban nationals have been fined and sentenced to jail for coercing more than 20 Cuban women in Texas.

Authorities busted a sex trafficking ring that operated between Cuba and Houston. The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the three sentences of the three Cuban men who set up a ring to recruit women for prostitution in Houston-area strip clubs.

They are Rasiel Gutiérrez Moreno, Hendry Jiménez Milanés and Rafael Mendoza Labrada. They will serve sentences ranging from 34 to 210 months in prison. They must also pay the victims almost $1 million in restitution.

Deception scheme

According to the DOJ, Gutierrez Moreno, one of the convicted men admitted to bringing women from Cuba to the United States and imposing fictitious debts on them as high as $30,000 in 2021. To pay their debts, the convicted man forced women to work in strip clubs around Houston. In addition to dancing in the clubs, the women engaged in sex acts and gave their income to Gutiérrez Moreno to pay down their debt. According to the courts, Gutiérrez Moreno coerced nearly 20 women this way.

He threatened the women violently to coerce them into his control and force them to pay him for smuggling them into the country. According to the DOJ, he even went so far as to brutally beat a woman to set an example for his other victims. Jiménez Milanés pleaded guilty to coercion and enticement, and Mendoza Labrada pleaded guilty to interstate travel in aid of racketeering.

“These human smugglers terrorized female migrants, using Houston’s strip clubs combined with psychological threats and sexual violence for their personal financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas. “The victims came to the United States in search of a new life, were especially vulnerable, and the defendants took advantage of that. The sentences imposed today send a strong message that the Southern District of Texas will not tolerate those who smuggle, threaten and abuse the vulnerable," he added, according to the DOJ release.

The authorities claim that the scheme used in this crime is quite common. The investigation involved the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service in conjunction with DHS's Homeland Security Investigations agency.