Thursday, April 14, 2011

Latino House Brothels: Human Trafficking In America.

Recently MSNBC did an investigation of a Latino House Brothel maintained by an Atlanta sex Trafficking ring. Investigators say
Amador Cortes-Mezahe, the ring's leader promised the victims a good job, a nice home, money, even marriage, but when they arrived in the land of the free they were brutalized, held captive and forced to work as prostitutes, sometimes servicing up to 40 men in one day.

According to MSNBC's report, "Cortes-Mezahe met Cristina when she was just 24 years old in a rural village in Mexico. He told her he loved her and brought her to the U.S. to build a life with him. This was not the case. 'That's when I realized he was not telling me the truth. A man who loves a woman would not make them do that. I lived under his humiliation, I lived under the beatings, under the fear, there was nothing I could do.'

Atlanta Sex Trafficking ring-leader Amador Cortes-Mezahe.

When another one of Cortes-Meza's victims asked to be returned to her family, she testified, he repeatedly dunked her head in a bucket of water until she felt she was drowning. Another had an iron thrown at her, slicing open her head."

According to MSNBC, in these operations, 'closed-network' houses of prostitution cater to customers of a specific race or ethnicity, in this case, Hispanic women and Hispanic customers.

House where Cortes-Meza exploited his Latino Victims

Anti-trafficking group Polaris Project, who runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888) was the first to label these Latino Residential Brothels, or LRBs. Their research has found that residential brothels have spread to at least 25 states over the past 20 years. Their website highlights this problem here.

Polaris Project explains: "Traffickers set up in average neighborhoods and use coded advertisements in Spanish language newspapers, or by handing out false business cards and word of mouth to attract specific customers.

The young women, some as young as 13, are all lured in similar ways - promised jobs and better lives, smuggled into the country and then held captive until they pay off their 'debt' and forced to live under the ringleaders' control for years. They are usually moved from one brothel to another to prevent them from establishing roots and escaping.

"One woman in her early 20's was smuggled into the United States
from Guatemala for what she thought was a housekeeping job. The journey from her small town to the Texas border took 26 days. From there she was whisked to a safe house near Houston, then brought to Tampa, and moved once more to a house in Jacksonville. There, an enforcer for the human trafficking operation told the woman her debt had jumped from $5,000 to $30,000. The enforcer demonstrated how to use a condom by rolling it over a beer bottle. He said she'd have to pay back the debt as a prostitute, according to authorities. She turned 25 tricks the next day and nearly every day for eight or nine months. This tortured existence — the daily life of a human trafficking victim — ended May 22, 2007, when authorities intervened." - 2009 St. Petersburg Times Article

Map of House Brothel prevalence by state.

Human trafficking victims in residential brothels are often forced to provide commercial sex to high volumes of men daily. In certain sex trafficking networks, women and girls commonly "serve" as many as four men per hour (every 15 minutes), totaling 48 men in a given 12 hour day. In this network, the victims are almost always women and children from Latin America. Brothels are typically located in homes, town homes, condos, apartments, and trailers. The majority of residential brothels are “closed networks” for only Latino men as "johns." Rather than advertizing online or through newspapers, they distribute business cards or “tarjetas” and also publicize their existence through word-of-mouth.

When does it become trafficking?

Trafficking occurs when brothel operators and/or boyfriends/recruiters use force, fraud, and/or coercion to maintain control over women in the brothel and to cause them to engage in commercial sex acts. An individual under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex is considered a victim of sex trafficking regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion. Common means of control include:

Force – Complete isolation in the residential brothel; regular and frequent transportation to other brothels or other cities by drivers working for the trafficking network; physical or sexual abuse.

Fraud – False promises of a better life; false promises that a job in the United States will be better than their current job; false promises by a trafficker presenting as a boyfriend.

Coercion – Pressure to please the customer; debt manipulation; verbal, psychological and emotional abuse; threats of harm to the victim or victim’s family; threats to shame the victim by revealing the commercial sex to his or her family and others in the community; exploitation of a foreign national unfamiliarity with the language, laws and customs of the U.S.; threats of deportation and arrest; confiscation of passports and visas; restrictions on communication to family; forced abortions; rumors of or witnessed violence at hands of traffickers; coercive pressure from boyfriends or pimps outside the brothel.

*The above list is not comprehensive or cumulative. One element of force, fraud or coercion may be present, or many.


Immigration Status – Frequently, the women within residential brothel networks are undocumented. They may have come to the U.S. on a legitimate visa, a false visa provided to them by the network, or they may have been smuggled across the border. In many cases, their passport or identification documents have been confiscated by the trafficker, further increasing their vulnerability. Without legal status, the women frequently are taught by traffickers to fear and distrust police or government authorities.

Economic Hardship – Residential brothel networks often target women experiencing economic hardship, exploiting women’s need to care financially for family members or children.

Frequent Movement & Disorientation – Typically, women are not aware of or familiar with their surroundings because they are made to live and sleep at the brothel location and are not allowed to leave except when transported to a new brothel location.

Recruitment – Similar to domestic pimp-controlled sex trafficking, women in residential brothels are commonly recruited into the network by traffickers posing as boyfriends who feign romance and affection. Others are recruited in their home countries through false job promises in the U.S. Latina women already living in the U.S. may also be targeted through print advertisements, informal communications, or word of mouth.

Statistics Snapshot

* Standard price for 15 minutes of sex at a Residential Brothel: $30
* Standard day for a woman or child at a Residential Brothel: 10am – 10pm; 12 hours; 7 days a week
* Estimated number of men a woman or child must have sex with daily: 25 – 48 men daily"

Here are the 10 steps common to most Latino residential brothels, according to sex trafficking and law enforcement experts. Read the full article here.

1. Direct marketing

Brothels ensure a steady stream of customers by advertising aggressively at bus stops, parks and other high traffic pedestrian areas.

2. A nod and a wink

After identifying qualified customers (typically Spanish-speaking males), advertisers pass out "tarjetas" — business cards with ads in Spanish for phony products and services like men's cologne or house-call manicures. "Johns" know the ads are for sex. "Squares" likely never give the cards a second thought.

3. Reading between the lines

Some "tarjetas" will have codes - like wings indicating a brothel that delivers. Sometimes a call has to be placed to get the location of a brothel; other times the address is right on the card.

4. Now delivering

If delivery is an option, trusted car services are sometimes involved, with drivers taking a fee. Sometimes employees of the brothel drive girls around. Busy brothels keep long lists of available drivers, who share the profits with the brothel owners.

5. The door man

When a "john" visits a brothel, a "door man" will ask probing questions: "Where are you from?" "Where do you live?" "Where did you hear about us?" If the story and the accent check out, the customer he can gain entrance to the closed-network brothel.

6. The sale

Inside the brothel — usually a normal house or apartment — available girls or waiting "johns" sit on couches in a sparse living room. When a "john's" turn comes he goes to a man called a "ticketero" and hands him money — usually $30 for 15 minutes.

7. The token

The "ticketero" gives the "john" a token (a playing card, a marble, a poker chip or a glass bead). Girls keep the tokens to keep track of how many "johns" they see at the brothel. Even though they keep a count, many girls are not paid.

8. The selection

Depending on the brothel, a "john" can select a girl. Often there are as few as two girls servicing as many as 50 men each in a night, so there are not always options. Ledgers are used to keep track of visits.

9. Behind the curtain

"Johns" follow girls to a room. Often large rooms are divided up by nothing more than hanging sheets. There is rarely anything other than a sparse bed, and products like sanitizer, lubricant, condoms and paper towels within.

10. The sex act

The "john" gives the girl the token, and the 15 minutes begin — sometimes with the turn of an egg timer.

If you or anyone you know has been victimized by one of these house brothels or if any of these steps seem familiar please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-3737-888.

Please help Conspiracy Of Hope end this evil in our lifetime. Thank you.

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