Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Massachusetts Human Traffickers Arrested

Four individuals, including a husband and wife, have been arrested and charged in connection with allegedly running a sophisticated human trafficking operation in and around the Boston area. These arrests are the first under a new human trafficking law in Massachusetts, which went into effect Feb. 19, 2012.

The four individuals were arrested the morning of Friday, March 23, without incident by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Massachusetts attorney general's office. They have been charged with one count each of "trafficking in persons for sexual servitude." Those arrested today include: Rafael Henriquez, 39, and his wife Ramona Carpio Hernandez, 50, both of East Boston; and Milton Lopez-Martinez, 26, and Diego Suarez, 34.

These arrests are the result of a joint, months-long operation conducted by the attorney general's office, HSI and the Massachusetts State Police, working in close cooperation with the Boston Police Department, Lynn (Mass.) Police Department and Chelsea (Mass.) Police.

"We allege that these individuals ran an extensive human trafficking operation by transporting women into Boston and profiting from their sexual services, with some women being sold as many as 15 times in one day," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. "Our enforcement effort today is only the first step toward targeting human traffickers who transport, harbor and exploit others for their own profit. We would like to thank the great cooperation with HSI and our local police partners for making this investigation and outcome possible today."

"Today's arrests are the result of the great partnership HSI has with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office and Massachusetts State Police in our unyielding resolve to bring human traffickers to justice," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "Sordid tales of human trafficking come to light every day. But because human trafficking is so widespread, no one entity can adequately address the problems it presents. Law enforcement throughout Massachusetts is committed to giving victims the help they need to come forward and help us end human trafficking."

Investigators allege that Henriquez and Hernandez were the leaders of this organization, running a sophisticated human trafficking operation that transported numerous women into the area, housing them in deplorable conditions for a week at a time. Investigators also believe these women were brought to Massachusetts for the sole purpose of engaging in the sex trade and that these defendants recruited the women, and enticed them to engage in sexual acts with "johns," sometimes up to 15 times a day. The investigation also determined that Lopez-Martinez and Suarez allegedly handled the daily operations of the organization, including supervising the two primary locations in East Boston and Chelsea as well as transporting women to house calls of other "johns."

Henriquez, Hernandez, and Lopez-Martinez are expected to be arraigned March 26 in East Boston District Court. Suarez is expected to be arraigned Monday morning in Chelsea District Court. These defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Massachusetts Attorney General Dean Mazzone, Chief of Attorney General Coakley's Enterprise and Major Crimes Division; and Assistant Massachusetts Attorney General Marina Moriarty, also from the Coakley's Enterprise and Major Crimes Division.

The ongoing investigation is being handled by HSI, Massachusetts State Police and the Boston Police Department.

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