Forty Honduran women and girls, lured by the promise of jobs as maids and waitresses, trekked for days from Choluteca, Honduras to Fort Worth, Texas only to be tricked and forced into a Texas couple’s sex trafficking ring. In testimony delivered last Friday, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Special Agent George Ramirez described the sex trafficking operation run by Antonio Molina, 32, and Guadalupe Molina, 27, as an extensive network beginning with relatives recruiting Choluteca women aged 19 to 23 years old and girls aged 14 to 16 years old, followed by the transport and subsequent housing of victims under constant surveillance in Fort Worth homes and apartments maintained by the Molinas. According to Ramirez, one woman was repeatedly raped during the journey and immediately following arrival, all of the victims were forced to work at bars, promoting beer sales and providing prostitution services.
The May 16 raid of the “Molina organization” resulted in 88 arrests. US Magistrate Judge Charles Bleil charged the couple with conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants, and the couple was jailed without bail. As one local Honduran following the story commented, “It’s horrible. People are looking for the American dream to build a better life, but nobody knows the risk along the way.”
According to officials at the Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in December 2001, sex trafficking is the third most lucrative criminal activity in the world after smuggling arms and narcotics. According to the 2000 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the US State Department, between 45,000 and 50,000 people “mostly women and children” are trafficked to the United States and forced to work in sweatshop like conditions or in the sex industries as prostitutes. The United Nations, however, estimates that between 244,000 and 325,000 women and children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States.