Federal Jury Convicts Sex Trafficking Ring Leader
HOUSTON—Hortencia Medeles-Arguello Arguello aka Raquel Medeles Garcia, Raquel Medeles Garcia or “Tencha,” 71, has been found guilty on all counts for her leadership role in a 16-defendant sex trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The verdict was returned today following a 10-day trial and approximately four hours of deliberations.
She is the 14th defendant to have been convicted. 13 others have pleaded guilty, while two remain at large.
This is believed to be the first sex trafficking case of this magnitude tried in the United States involving both minors and women who were forced to engage in prostitution against their will. 12 rescued victims testified at trial regarding the horrors of their ordeal beginning with being recruited in their home country and ending with their rescue here in the United States. Some girls were recruited as young as 14 years of age.
Testimony revealed that pimps recruited the young girls by convincing them they were in love, making threats to their families as well as threatening the girls themselves. Testimony revealed Tencha should have known that the girls prostituted at their establishment were either underage or victims of the beatings by their pimps.
On the first full day of trial, the jury heard from one of the victims in the case. She detailed the horrific conditions she faced at the hands of the defendant and others, to include being forced into having sex at age 14 after she had come to this country in search of a better life. She described how she was forced to comply with demands at gunpoint and locked in a room. She was eventually impregnated by a “customer” and was moved to another area of the bar. Following the move, she found a way to escape.
Evidence at trial indicated that Tencha made more than $1.6 million in a 19-month period by supplying the upper floor of her cantina for prostitutes to ply their trade. The evidence further revealed that many of the prostitutes were either minors or forced to engage in sex acts at the defendant’s bar. The jury heard that Tencha had engaged in harboring illegal aliens for 13 years and sex trafficking for six years.
The jury found her guilty on all counts as charged to include conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor aliens, aiding and abetting to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. She faces up to life in prison. U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presided over the trial, has set sentencing for July 22, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. She will remain in custody pending that hearing.
In addition, 15 real properties and other assets for a value of about $2.5 million will be forfeited to the United States having been found to have been purchased with sex trafficking proceeds with the intent to use the proceeds from their sale to make restitution to the victims of this horrible crime
The 13 others who were previously convicted include Lilia Medeles Cerda aka Lilly, 66, Diana Medeles Garcia aka Diana Garcia Marquez, 50, Graciela Medeles Ochoa, 37, Abel Medeles aka Chito, 67, Odelia Hernandez, 47, Delia Diaz, 51, Guadalupe Valdez Lugo aka Lupe, 58, and Talat Crippin aka Chacho, 27, all of Houston; Eduardo Guzman Gonzales aka Miguel Rojas or El Pantera, 33, Alberto Mendez Flores aka Ardilla, 27, Jose L. Uraga aka Wicho, 36, and Jorge Antonio Teloxa-Barbosa aka Eli, 31, all Mexican citizens illegally residing in the U.S. David Garcia, 46, Techa’s son, was also convicted. All had pleaded to varying charges to include alien harboring and money laundering.
Marco Antonio Pulido aka Marco Antonio Salazar or Marco Antonio Pulido, 58, Alfonso Diaz-Juarez aka Ponco or El Grenas are fugitives and warrants remain outstanding for their arrests. Anyone with information about their whereabouts is asking to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.
The investigation leading to the filing of criminal charges was the result of a three year 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, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, Department of State, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting the case.