Extradited Defendant Convicted of Leading Sex Trafficking Ring
HOUSTON—The leader of a sex trafficking ring who was indicted 10 years ago and later extradited from Mexico has pleaded guilty to four counts of harboring illegal aliens for the purpose of prostitution, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Gerardo Salazar aka El Gallo entered a plea of guilty today, admitting to his role in smuggling minor girls and young women from Mexico into the United States and using deception, threats of harm, physical force and psychological coercion to compel their service as prostitutes in Houston area bars.
El Gallo, 51, of Mexico City, Mexico, was indicted in 2005 along with Mexican nationals Salvador Fernando Molina Garcia, Angel Moreno Salazar, Jose Luis Moreno Salazar, Juan Carlos Salazar and Ivan Salazar. El Gallo was the leader of the group and had been a fugitive since 2005. At that time, a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was taken into custody in 2010 and extradited to the United States in June 2014.
At their respective guilty plea hearings in 2006, the co-defendants admitted to being part of an organization that operated between early 2004 through the summer of 2005. The purpose was to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide and obtain young Mexican women and girls for the purpose of prostitution. They admitted they benefitted financially from participating in the venture knowing that force, fraud and coercion would be used to cause the young women and to engage in commercial sex acts. Those in the sex trafficking ring further admitted to knowing that some of the girls were under the age of 18.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore accepted the plea today and has set sentencing for Jan. 16, 2015. At that time, Salazar faces up to 10 years on federal prison on each count of conviction as well as a possible $250,000 fine. He will remain in prison pending that hearing.
The charges were the result of an investigation conducted by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) in Houston, which includes the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Department of State, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department. The HTRA was formed by the United States Attorney’s office in Houston as part of a broader effort by the Department of Justice to concentrate and combine resources of our own office’s civil rights and organized crime units as well as federal, state law and local enforcement agencies and non-governmental service organizations to target human traffickers while providing necessary services to those victimized by the traffickers. The Houston HTRA was one of the first of 42 such funded organizations and the first of its kind in Texas. The mission of the HTRA is to foster the collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with area social service organizations to identify and assist the victims of human trafficking and to effectively identify, apprehend and prosecute those engaged in trafficking offenses.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance with the extradition.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting the case.