Two men plead guilty in sex trafficking case

Both face up to 10 years in jail when they are sentenced

SAN DIEGO —- Two men accused of helping to run a prostitution ring that served migrant camps in North County pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court.

The men, Eduardo Aguila-Tecuapacho and Carlos Tzompantzi-Serrano, stood expressionless in a federal courtroom as Judge Louisa Porter read the charge back to them. Both men said in Spanish that they were guilty of harboring illegal immigrants for the purposes of prostitution.

Each man faces up to 10 years in prison. They are expected to be sentenced in January. Both are illegal immigrants from Mexico and will likely be deported once they have completed their sentences, Porter said.

A third man involved in the case, Adrian Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez, is facing several charges that he brought women across the U.S.-Mexico border to use them in the sex trade. His trial is set to begin next month.

Aguila-Tecuapacho helped Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez by renting an apartment in Vista where one of the prostitutes lived, according to court documents. Aguila-Tecuapacho also allowed Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez, who is his cousin, to use his name for cell phone accounts and vehicle registrations for cars that were used to transport the women.

Tzompantzi-Serrano acted as a driver taking the women to various North County spots where the women allegedly worked in outdoor brothels, according to federal prosecutors.

Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez allegedly befriended at least two women and then forced them into lives of prostitution.

In May 2008, Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez allegedly paid a smuggler to bring Anabel de la Cruz-Ramirez, one of the prostitutes, illegally into the U.S. His relatives sheltered her in an apartment on West Los Angeles Drive in Vista. She later relocated to a nearby home at 311 Weston Circle.

Once in North County, Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez allegedly took de la Cruz-Ramirez to meet clients in ranches, canyons and apartments, according to court records. He paid her rent, cell phone bills and bought her supplies, such as condoms.

Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez, de la Cruz-Ramirez and another woman were arrested on Nov. 20, 2008, when sheriff’s deputies stopped the vehicle they were in, in a rural area of Valley Center known as Couzer Canyon, a place authorities say is often used by sex traffickers to set up makeshift prostitution camps.

Activists say prostitution is common in North County’s migrant camps, where men live in makeshift shanties while working as farm hands and day laborers throughout the region.

In recent years, authorities have busted several prostitution rings in the area, but officials say the cases are often difficult to prosecute because the women are often too scared to testify against their pimps.


Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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