Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Prosecutors: Prostitution ring catered to Florida farmworkers

Associated Press
October 18, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. - Federal and state authorities have broken up what they described as a prostitution ring that catered to farmworkers in central Florida, authorities said Tuesday.

Federal and local law enforcement agents have arrested 11 suspects on charges of conspiracy to transport individuals for sexual activity.

Another 43 people were arrested for being in the United States illegally during searches that were made in Hillsborough, Orange and Polk counties last Saturday. Authorities recovered more than $32,000 in cash, jewelry and two luxury vehicles, federal prosecutors said.

Frank Figueora, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Tampa, said the suspects exploited the immigration system by using the foreign-born women as prostitutes. Women were recruited from Chicago and Puerto Rico, the indictment said.

Most of the criminal suspects were from the Dominican Republic and Honduras. The defendants were either denied bond or didn't have a bond hearing until Wednesday and couldn't be reached for comment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eduardo Torro-Font said that the brothels usually operated in trailer parks and were easily opened, closed and reopened in another location. They operated from January 2000 until last December, according to an indictment that was issued in June but was sealed until the arrests.

If convicted, the sex trafficking suspects each could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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