Trafficking Ring Prosecuted in New York
In a piece for the NY Times, Benjamin Weiser reported on the prosecution of the leaders of a human trafficking ring operating between Mexico and the United States, who trafficked an estimated more than 400 women and girls. The brothers Isaias Flores-Mendez and Bonifacio and 14 other defendants plead guilty in a New York criminal court to charges of human trafficking. The ringleaders received life sentences, while other network members, like Alejandro Degante-Galeno, who served as a driver within the network, were sentenced to five years or less.
According to Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the ring, which previously operated in and around New York and New Jersey, was part of a larger network of traffickers that operate between Tenancingo, Mexico, New York, and elsewhere. According to the articl,e the ring operated as a well-organized network with a structure that included various actors along the trafficking process, including recruiters, drivers, dispatchers, doormen, brothel operators, and even mechanics who searched vehicles for trafficking devices that might have been placed by federal agents.
While life sentences for federal trafficking cases are not unprecedented according to Alexandra F. Levy of the Pro Bono Legal Center, there have only been approximately 11 since 2009. Human trafficking cases are often difficult to prosecute and are hindered by the limited cooperation of victims who fear retaliation against themselves and their families, both domestically and back home. The sentencing by federal judge Katherine B. Forrest highlights the severity of the crime and is an example of the types of prosecutions and law enforcement efforts needed to disrupt the business of traffickers at all stages of the process. While there is a need for increased prosecution of human trafficking cases, there must also be increased attention on the range of individuals that enable and benefit from the exploitation of other human beings.