U.S. Federal prosecutors released a 52-count indictment yesterday, charging 16 members of a prostitution ring run by a family that is based in Veracruz, Mexico. Allegations include the forced prostitution of 20 women, some as young as 14-years-old, alleged beatings, rapes and forced abortions. U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Chief Bill Lann Lee said the charges were “shocking and unconscionable.”
The women paid as much as $2,400 to the family to be smuggled across the Mexican border into the United States. The women, many of whom thought they would find work in restaurants or hotels, were moved from a “safe house” in Houston to one of twelve brothels in Florida or South Carolina. The women were not allowed to leave until they had paid back their smuggling fee.
The women have spoken of rapes, beatings, being prostituted within weeks of a forced abortion, and forced to have sex up to 20 times a day. Eleven of the women and three girls are aiding U.S. investigators and are allowed to remain in the U.S. for one year.
Eight members of the prostitution-ring were taken into custody by U.S. officials.
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno announced the creation Thursday of a task force that will work to combat worker-exploitation in the U.S.