Man gets life in prison for role in sex trafficking ring - FOX Carolina 21

Man sentenced in sex trafficking ring

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Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, aka El Flaco (Source: Liberty County Sheriff's Office) Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, aka El Flaco (Source: Liberty County Sheriff's Office)

A Mexican national was sentenced to sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay $705,000 in restitution in a sex trafficking case.

The conviction is the result of a massive Operation Dark Night investigation, which is the largest sex-trafficking investigation ever prosecuted in the Southern District of Georgia. In January 2013, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the results of the lengthy investigation of a sex trafficking ring stretching from Florida to Georgia to North and South Carolina.

Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, aka El Flaco, transported people across borders for prostitution and conspired with at least three others to entice women from Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to travel to the U.S. under false pretenses, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

Mendez Hernandez was considered the leader of the conspiracy. He told a Mexican woman that she would be sent back to her home country unless she had 25 clients a day, according to a federal indictment.

Each of the 23 defendants arrested in Operation Dark Night have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Two defendants, Eugenio Prieto-Hernandez and Daniel Ribon-Gonzalez, remain fugitives.

When the women got to the U.S., they were threatened and forced into prostitution.  Eleven victims were rescued and 40 customers called Johns were also taken into custody. Some of the women were housed in an apartment on Tibet Avenue. They were forced into prostitution and traded like slaves in various cities for about a week at a time.

Three of the six being sentenced were being held in Liberty County jail.

Twelve victims were rescued as a part of Operation Dark Night. HSI provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the U.S. during criminal proceedings.  

Victims may also qualify for a T visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia. Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 866.DHS.2.ICE or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.373.7888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

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