They were promised jobs as house cleaners and babysitters. But instead New Jersey officials say women from Mexico and other Latin American countries were forced into prostitution and served as many as 40 clients a day.
New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced the arrests Thursday of 38-year-old Jose Cruz Romero-Flores and a crew that included his girlfriend and four other men. The six are charged with moving an unknown number of women through brothels based in Lakewood, New Jersey and other states.
“Once the woman are brought into the United States, they are made to work what is called ‘the circuit,’ “ explained Hoffman, “which is a number of brothels in New Jersey and surrounding states where they are shipped from brothel to brothel."
The six were the first defendants to be charged under New Jersey’s new human trafficking law. Romero-Flores, also known as “Chato” was charged with first-degree human trafficking, second-degree promoting organized street crime and third-degree promoting prostitution. The first degree charge of human trafficking carries a 20 year to life penalty, plus a criminal fine of $200,000. Two other defendants, Felix Rios-Martinez, 47, of Lakewood and Raul Romero-Castillo, 30 of Lakewood were charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking, second dwegree promoting organized street crime and third-degree promoting prostitution.
Santos Lazaero Flores Cruz, 58, of Union City, and Haliro Bueno, 21, of Lakewood were each charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking, second-degree promoting organized street crime and third-degree promoting prostitution.
Odulia Bedran Trejo, 22 was charged with second-degree promoting organized street crime and third-degree promoting prostitution.
Hoffman would not disclose how many women been rescued as a part of the arrest. He said the investigation, which includes brothels in New York, is still ongoing.
His office is looking for other victims in this case and asked that anyone with information to call the 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline at 877-986-7534