Photo: Human Trafficking of Undocumented Immigrants
After a four-week trial, a federal jury in Central Islip, New York, today found Antonio Rivera and Jason Villaman guilty of conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor, alien harboring, and alien transportation. John Whaley was convicted of conspiracy, forced labor, alien harboring, and alien transportation.
The charges arose in connection with the defendants operation of two bars, Sonidos de la Frontera, in Lake Ronkonkoma, and La Hija del Mariachi, in Farmingville, New York. Rivera was the owner of the bars, and Whaley and Villaman transported the victims to and from the bars. Villaman also worked as a security guard at Sonidos.
The government’s evidence at trial established that the defendants and others compelled undocumented Latin American women from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador hired as waitresses in Rivera’s bars to engage in commercial sex acts by using violence, fraud, coercion, and threats of deportation.
“I congratulate the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District as well as the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division for the successful prosecution of this human trafficking case,” stated Suffolk County Police Commissioner Dormer. “I appreciate the difficult task the detectives and agents had overcoming the fear that these undocumented women expressed during this investigation. This case sends an important message to all undocumented persons who may be here illegally and are being victimized: the law enforcement community and prosecutors will not tolerate your criminal exploitation; if you come forward, we will protect you.”
When sentenced by United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein, the defendants face a maximum term of imprisonment of life on the sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking offenses, and 20 years for the forced labor, alien harboring, and transportation of aliens offenses. In addition, the defendants face a fine equal to twice the pecuniary gain resulting from their crimes.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Demetri M. Jones and Licha Nyiendo, and Senior Litigation Counsel John Cotton Richmond of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.