LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (WPIX)—Three New Yorkers, including a registered sex offender, have been arrested Monday morning after federal authorities raided two Long Island bars in a giant sex trafficking ring.
Two owners and the manager of the Sonidos de la Frontera bar located in Lake Ronkonkoma, and the La Hija del Mariachi bar, located in Farmngville, have been charged with crimes involving conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor and alien harboring.
The three arrested are Antonio Rivera, who is a Registered Sex Offender, his sister, Jasmin Rivera, and bar manager John Whaley.
In 1998, Antonio Rivera, 34, was convicted of rape in the second and third degrees, respectively.
A joint investigation conducted on Monday revealed that they lured young women--primarily Central American immigrants--to engage in sex acts with bar patrons for money. Some of the victims were as young as 17 years old. The defendants kept half of the earnings.
If the women refused in engaging in acts of prostitution, authorities say they were assaulted and sometimes raped. They also were threatened with being reported to immigration authorities.
The defendants controlled the movement of the women between the two bars and other locations in Hempstead, Huntington and Brentwood, transporting them in vehicles registered to the defendants.
The accused are also charged with conspiring to harbor illegal aliens by concealing the women's true identities and immigration status from state licensing agencies and law enforcement authorities.
This activity went on from September 2007 through the present.
Along with the arrests, law enforcement agents executed search warrants at both bars.
The suspects are scheduled to make their first appearances Monday afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Michael L. Orenstein at the U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip, New York. The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Demetri Jones and John Durham.
"Sex trafficking preys upon vulnerable young women for profit and degrades both the individual victims and the communities where these crimes are committed," said United States Attorney Benton J. Campbell. "The Office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute such crimes."
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer stated that these crimes will not be tolerated in Suffolk County.
"This Department values its role as the local law enforcement component of the Anti-Human-Trafficking Task Force for Long Island," he said in a statement, "We hope these arrests will put others on notice that sex trafficking and similar crimes will continue to be a high priority for this Department."
If convicted, the defendants face a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine in connection with the sex trafficking charges; up to life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine in connection with the forced labor charges; and a maximum sentence of 20 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the alien harboring charges.