Three Cuban nationals have been ordered to prison for sex trafficking and related crimes.
Rasiel Gutierrez Moreno, 38, Hendry Jimenez Milanes, 39, and Rafael Mendoza Labrada, 29, were sentenced to 210, 120 and 34 months in federal prison, respectively. Moreno was ordered to pay $451,298 in restitution, while Milanes was ordered to pay $359,108.
Gutierrez Moreno pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and interstate travel in aid of racketeering Oct. 28, 2021. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted to bringing women from Cuba to the United States and charging them inflated smuggling debts as high as $30,000. Gutierrez Moreno forced the women to work in Houston-area strip clubs, such as Michaels’ International, where they danced and engaged in commercial sex acts with club patrons. They then had to provide all the proceeds to Gutierrez Moreno to pay down their debt.
Gutierrez Moreno further acknowledged smuggling and extracting a debt from approximately 20 other women in this manner.
Gutierrez Moreno admitted that to keep a specific victim under his control while she worked for him, he bragged about his acts of violence against other women and their families. On one occasion, Gutierrez Moreno beat another woman shortly before the other victim arrived at his home and ensured she observed that woman’s injuries. When the first victim escaped Gutierrez Moreno, he contacted her family in both Miami and Cuba to demand she return to work and finish paying her debt to him.
Jimenez Milanes pleaded guilty Jan. 10, 2022, to coercion and enticement, while Mendoza Labrada pleaded guilty April 30, 2021, to interstate travel in aid of racketeering.
“These defendants cruelly used violence, threats of violence, and false debts to force vulnerable victims to engage in commercial sex,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This kind of sex trafficking scheme is unlawful, dehumanizing and terrorizing to the women unable to break free. The Justice Department is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who prey upon, abuse, and exploit others for their own financial benefit.”
“These human smugglers terrorized female migrants, using Houston’s strip clubs combined with psychological threats and sexual violence for their personal financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. “The victims came to the United States in search of a new life, were especially vulnerable, and the defendants took advantage of that. The sentences imposed today send a strong message that the Southern District of Texas will not tolerate those who smuggle, threaten and abuse the vulnerable.”
“The court’s sentence today sends a strong message: The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is committed to making sure that those who commit sex trafficking face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Special Agent in Charge John Keith of the Department of State's DSS - Houston Field Office. “DSS’ strong relationship with the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies around the world continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
DSS conducted the investigation as part of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA), with the assistance of the Homeland Security Investigations of Miami, Florida, and the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.
Established in 2004, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston formed HTRA to combine resources with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, as well as non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those survivors who the traffickers victimized. Since its inception, HTRA has been recognized as both a national and international model in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking and prosecuting those engaged in trafficking offenses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Zack for the Southern District of Texas and Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case.