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N.J. Authorities Bust Suspected Human Trafficking Ring

Women Allegedly Brought To U.S. From Mexico Under False Pretenses
Acting NJ Attorney General John Hoffman announcing human trafficking ring bust at news conference in Trenton, July 18, 2013. (credit: Jim Smith/WCBS 880)

Acting NJ Attorney General John Hoffman announcing human trafficking ring bust at news conference in Trenton, July 18, 2013. (credit: Jim Smith/WCBS 880)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Six members of a human trafficking ring that moved Mexican women into the United States illegally and made them work as prostitutes, often after promising them jobs as house cleaners or baby sitters, have been arrested, state authorities said Thursday.

Jose Romero-Flores, identified as the ringleader, operated three brothels in Lakewood with assistance from his girlfriend, Odulia Bedran Trejo, who helped him find women in Mexico and drove women and clients to and from the brothels, state prosecutors said.

Romero-Flores made the women meet demanding quotas, and it was not uncommon for them to service more than 100 johns in a six-day week and sometimes as many as 40 in a day, at $30 an encounter, authorities said.

Four other associates of Romero-Flores are accused of aiding the scheme.

As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, Operation No Boundaries uncovered an alleged network of brothels in surrounding states, including several in Lakewood.

All the defendants are Mexican nationals living in the United States illegally, the state attorney general said. They were being held in the Ocean County Jail.

Prosecutors would not provide any details about the status of the women involved.

Investigators said they believe several dozen women were employed at the brothels, although they said a smaller number worked for Romero-Flores at any given time.

The Lakewood houses of prostitution were connected to a network of brothels, operating in New York and other surrounding states, that “exploited Mexican women who were tricked or coerced into illegally entering the U.S., where they have endured a miserable life of high-volume prostitution,” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said.

In many cases, the women were brought to the U.S. under the guise they would do housework or baby-sit, he said.

In other cases, the women were coerced into entering the U.S. to work at the brothels and send money they earn back to Mexico, authorities said.

“This case bears the classic hallmarks of international sex-related human trafficking,” Hoffman said.

Only one of the brothels was up and running when detectives executed a search warrant that included the seizure of ledgers that listed the names of the women and the dates they were scheduled to work, authorities said.

Romero-Flores is charged with human trafficking, promoting organized street crime and promoting prostitution. His girlfriend is charged with promoting organized street crime and promoting prostitution.

The four others face human trafficking conspiracy charges.

The state attorney general’s office said it was unaware if any of the defendants had an attorney. Jail officials wouldn’t accept requests to speak to the defendants by telephone.

Hoffman said the arrests mark the first time that charges have been filed in New Jersey under a new human trafficking law that took effect July 1. The law enhances penalties for human trafficking crimes and creates new crimes including first-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking, a charge that two of the men are facing.

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