Four More Enter Pleas in Sex Trafficking, Harboring, and Money Laundering Investigation
HOUSTON—Four more people have entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens relating to their roles in a sex trafficking, harboring and money laundering organization, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Lilia Medeles Cerda aka Lilly, 64, of Houston, Diana Medeles Garcia aka Diana Garcia Marquez, 49, of Houston, and Graciela Medeles Ochoa, 36, of Houston, were among a group of 13 defendants arrested Oct. 10, 2013. The fourth defendant, David Garcia, 45, also of Houston, was charged by criminal information Sept. 30, 2014. All appeared before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. this morning and pleaded guilty to their roles in the overall conspiracy. Cerda pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, while the three others entered pleas to aiding and abetting the harboring of illegal aliens.
Nine others have also pleaded guilty in the case—Abel Medeles aka Chito, 64, Odelia Hernandez, 45, Delia Diaz, 50, Guadalupe Valdez Lugo, 50, and Talat Crippin, 25, all of Houston; Eduardo Guzman Gonzales aka Miguel Rojas or El Pantera, 30, Alberto Mendez Flores aka Ardilla, 25, Jose L. Uraga, 30, and Jorge Antonio Teloxa-Barbosa, 28, all Mexican citizens illegally residing in the U.S.
As part of their pleas, all admitted they worked for Las Palmas II, a cantina located in Houston. They all knew the cantina concealed, harbored and shielded illegal aliens who worked there from detection by law enforcement and that the owners were profiting from such concealment. As part of their employment, they aided in the operation of the business and their conduct substantially facilitated the concealment, harboring and shielding of the employees and patrons of the Las Palmas II, whom they all knew were illegally in the U.S.
Abel Medeles operated the Las Palmas II parking lot. It was part of his job to notify his co-conspirators inside the cantina of any law enforcement presence he observed in order for his co-conspirators to be able to conceal from law enforcement the illegal activities in the Las Palmas II. Similarly, on at least one occasion, Hernandez told co-conspirators to lock the doors when she realized law enforcement was coming.
Gonzales and Flores managed the cantina. They paid the owners $20,000 each week out of the money received from the operation of the Las Palmas II and kept all the monies received in excess of that amount.
Cerda worked at the bar and provided condoms to the patrons. Garcia also worked at the bar. Garcia and Ochoa aided and abetted the scheme by counting the money generated at the bar from the sex trafficking involving the illegal aliens.
As part of the their pleas, all those that have been convicted have forfeited their interest in the 10 properties used in the illegal activities or that were obtained via proceeds from the criminal behavior. The government intends to use the proceeds seek restitution to the victims.
The cases against the alleged leader of conspiracy remains pending. She is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty through due process of law.
A 15th defendant—Mexican National Alfonso Diaz-Juarez aka Poncho aka El Grenas, 46—remains at large. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.
Judge Werlein has set sentencing for the four convicted today for March 2015. At that time, Cerda faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine, while the three others face a possible five-year-prison term.
The three-year investigation was conducted as part of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) and includes FBI, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Department of State, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting the case.