Lakewood Defendants Admit Human Trafficking
Jose Cruz Romero-Flores and four other defendants from Lakewood await sentencing for operating brothels in the township.
The guilty pleas were entered in Ocean County Superior Court in Toms River, according to information from the office of acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman.
Felix Rios-Martinez , Raul Romero-Castillo and Haliro Bueno of Lakewood, and Santos Lazaero Flores-Cruz of Union City admitted helping run the brothels for Romero-Flores and transporting women and clients.
There are suspicions that Romero-Flores’s girlfriend, Odulia Bedran Trejo, helped in finding women and running the brothels.
The Lakewood brothel was part of a larger network in New Jersey, New York and other states that paid “coyotes” to ship prostitutes from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Many prostitutes were misled into believing they were moving to the United States to become housekeepers or babysitters and many were forced to send their profits back to Mexico to those that paid for their illegal departure.
“This case fits a classic pattern of international sex trafficking, in which deception and coercion are used to enslave women in a horrific life of prostitution in the U.S., where they must service up to 40 clients each day,” said Hoffman in a prepared release. “Once the victims are under the sway of the traffickers, they are powerless to escape.”
Women were expected to service approximately 100 clients in a six day period for $30 each service.
They were moved from brothel to brothel to ensure clients were pleasured by a variety of women.
“We are partnering across all levels of law enforcement to apprehend sex traffickers and rescue their victims from what amounts to modern day slavery,” said Hoffman.
The U.S. Homeland Security Investigations’ ability to reach “beyond our borders into foreign nations where human trafficking is initiated and to partner with our state and local authorities creates a formidable strategy that grants law enforcement an advantage over those who deprive victims of their human rights,” said Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees of HSI Newark.
Multiple victims have been rescued thus far from the investigation. Hoffman noted that the Division of Criminal Justice maintains a 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline for victims and others to report information anonymously – 855-END-NJ-HT.