Sex Trafficking Ring Leader Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

WASHINGTON – Amador Cortes-Meza, 36, of Tlaxcala, Mexico, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story to serve 40 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release on charges of sex trafficking of minors; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; transporting minors for the purpose of prostitution; smuggling aliens into the United States for purposes of prostitution; and conspiracy to do the same, announced the Department of Justice.

Cortes-Meza was also ordered to pay restitution to the victims in the amount of $292,000. The sentencing follows Cortes-Meza’s conviction on these charges on Nov. 21, 2010 after a trial.

“The victims suffered sexual abuse, physical assaults, threats of harm to their families, and daily degradation all because of this defendant’s greed and callous disregard for them as individuals. The court’s sentence clearly reflects the seriousness of these awful sex trafficking crimes,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We are committed to prosecuting sex traffickers and vindicating victims’ rights, as they were vindicated today.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates said, “No one wants to believe that there are people who will enslave other human beings and require them to commit innumerable commercial sex acts. Yet this intolerable crime is happening right in our own neighborhoods in metropolitan Atlanta. This defendant tricked young girls and juveniles into leaving their families in Mexico, beat them, and forced them into more than 20 acts of prostitution a night here in Atlanta. These survivors courageously testified against the defendant and played a significant role in bringing him to justice. This defendant earned every day of his 40 year sentence.”

“Few crimes are more heinous than the sex trafficking of human beings," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) in Atlanta. “ICE HSI will vigorously pursue and prosecute any members of a criminal organization engaged in this dangerous, dehumanizing and illegal business.”

According to the charges and other information presented in court, Cortes-Meza was the ring leader of an organization that brought 10 victims, including four juveniles, to the United States and forced them into prostitution. Nine of the victims testified at trial that the defendant, his brother, Juan Cortes-Meza, and a nephew, Francisco Cortes-Meza, would trick and deceive young women in Mexico into coming to the United States. Amador and his family members would pretend to be romantically interested in the young girls, many of whom were from rural areas and some of whom did not have much education. The defendant and his co-conspirators would promise the victims they would have a life together and then tell them they needed to travel to the United States to make money working in restaurants or cleaning homes. Victims testified at trial that Amador Cortes-Meza was physically abusive both in Mexico and the United States if they disagreed with his plans or told him no.

The defendant also obtained false identification for the victims and made arrangements to smuggle the victims and himself into the United States.

Victims identified homes in the Norcross, Ga., area where they were housed by the defendant and his co-conspirators. The co-conspirators took turns monitoring the victims, and various drivers transported the victims to residences of clients where the victims were required to engage in commercial sex. The victims testified that when they refused to engage in prostitution, the defendant or his co-defendants would beat them and threaten them and their families with physical harm. The co-conspirators and the drivers split the proceeds of the prostitution.

Five co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to various human trafficking crimes. Francisco Cortes-Meza was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Juan Cortes-Meza was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison. Raul Cortes-Meza, the defendant’s nephew, received 10 years in prison.

This case was investigated by special ICE HSI special agents assigned to the Atlanta special agent in charge office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge and Deputy Chief Karima Maloney of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Criminal Section prosecuted the case.

Human trafficking prosecutions such as this one are a top priority in the Justice Department. In order to bring defendants to justice, victims of crime may be eligible for immigration status in the United States to assist in the prosecution. The Department of Homeland Security Tip Line to report trafficking crimes is 1-866-347-2423.