Olga Mondragon pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges for her role in conspiring to smuggle Central American women and girls into the United States and to placing them in a condition of involuntary servitude, Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim for the Civil Rights Division and US Attorney Don DeGabrielle for the Southern District of Texas announced.
At a hearing this morning in Houston, Olga Mondragon pleaded guilty to a total of 13 counts including eight counts of holding young Central American women in a condition of forced labor at her bar in the Houston area, and a forced labor conspiracy, conspiracy to and smuggling Central American women into the United States for financial gain, and harboring illegal aliens. She is the seventh of eight defendants charged in this human trafficking case to plead guilty. Co-defendant Maria Fuentes awaits trial.
Olga Mondragon is a 47-year-old El Salvadoran national. She and her co-defendants conspired with others to smuggle female illegal aliens from Central America to Houston. Once in Houston, Olga Mondragon, working with other co-defendants held the women and girls in a condition of servitude in bars owned by the conspirators until the women had paid their smuggling debts to the defendants. The defendants used threats of harm to the women and their families to keep the women in a condition of servitude. Specifically, Olga Mondragon and her co-defendants threatened that the women’s families or children would pay the consequences if any of the young women attempted to leave before paying their smuggling debts, including threats of kidnaping and threats to report the young women to dangerous co-conspirators who could have people killed or burn people’s houses down.
“Human traffickers pervert the American dream and use it as a ruse to lure vulnerable persons into terrible conditions of victimization,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim. “The Justice Department will continue to prosecute those who would perpetrate these heinous crimes.”
“This insidious crime is nothing more than thinly-cloaked modern day slavery. Seven defendants have been held accountable for these crimes and should serve as a warning to any who are engaged in this form of human trafficking and oppression,” said U.S. Attorney DeGabrielle.
Eight defendants were originally charged in this matter. Oscar Mondragon, operator of the Mi Cabana Sports Bar located on West Tidwell Road, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to conspiring with his brother, Maximino Mondragon, also known as “El Chimino”, and co-defendants Victor Omar Lopez and Walter Corea to recruit and transport women and girls from Central America to travel to the United States with the expectation of legitimate jobs in restaurants, only to hold the women through threats of force to compel and maintain their service as “bargirls” at bars and restaurants in the Houston area until each repaid smuggling and other assessed fees. Kerin Silva, son of Walter Corea, also pled guilty to conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens for commercial advantage and financial gain. Lorenza Reyes-Nunez pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.
This human trafficking organization operated for a period of approximately four years beginning in November 2001. The indictment identifies eight women from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua ranging in age from 16 to 38, who were recruited by one or more of the conspirators and compelled to work as “bargirls.”
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore has set sentencing for Sept. 24, 2007. Mondragon, who was permitted to remain free on bond pending her sentencing hearing, faces a maximum punishment of five years in prison for the forced labor conspiracy conviction, a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of 8 forced labor counts of conviction, up to 10 years for the conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens for financial gain and harboring illegal alien convictions, and no less than 3 and no more than 10 years in prison for each of two counts of conviction for smuggling illegal aliens for financial gain. Each of the eight counts of conviction carry a maximum fine of $250,000 and specified terms of supervised release.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has made combating human trafficking a top priority of the Justice Department. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed, quadrupled the number of defendants charged, and tripled the number of defendants convicted. In FY 2006, the Department initiated 168 investigations, charged 111 defendants in 32 cases, and obtained a record number of convictions totaling 98.
This case is the result of the investigative efforts of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) of the Southern District of Texas including agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Harris County Sheriff’s Department, and the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, and the Harris County Constable Precinct Five Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joseph Magliolo, and Trial Attorneys James Felte and Hilary Axam with the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, are jointly prosecuted the case.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Robert Moossy, Director
Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit
Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division
TDD (202) 514-1888
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