NEW YORK -- U.S. authorities say young Mexican women were driven to rural New Jersey and forced to have sex with 25 farmworkers a day or were confined to dingy brothels in the New York City area, being paid very little or nothing at all.
A criminal complaint charges 13 people with smuggling dozens of women into the United States and forcing them into prostitution. Some of the defendants were to appear Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan to face multiple counts including sex trafficking and interstate transportation for prostitution.
The ring "lured their unsuspecting victims to the United States and then consigned them to a living hell,'' U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
The investigation was among several aimed at "blockading the repugnant sex trafficking corridor'' used to exploit victims from Tenancingo, Mexico, said James Hayes, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York.
Tenancingo, an impoverished town in Tlaxcala state, has long been a notorious haven for pimps who use a combination of threats, abuse and broken promises of marriage and jobs to put innocent victims, some only in their teens, on a path to sex slavery in Mexico City and in large cities in the United States.
Most victims eventually manage to escape, authorities say in court papers. But "without legal status in the United States, without family and friends for support, without employment opportunities and as a result of the trauma they suffered, victims sometimes return to prostitution.''
According to the complaint, the ring provided its victims with condoms and birth control pills while making them have sex with up to 30 men a day. The men paid $30 for 15 minutes. The women sometimes got a $15 cut, but that usually went to the traffickers.
If convicted, some of the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.