Federal agents smash sex-slave ring

By Calvin Palmer

More than 100 federal agents and police raided several homes and bars early today to smash a sex slave ring in New York.

The raids targeted Suffolk County where undocumented women from El Salvador and Honduras were hired as waitresses and then forced to become prostitutes.

Federal agents and rounded up 23 of the women and were questioning them at an undisclosed location.

According to court documents, most of the women had entered the United States illegally but some were recruited in their native countries via advertising on the Internet.

The bars raided were La Hija del Mariachi, in Farmingville, and Sonidos de la Frontera, in Ronkonkoma.

The raids were based on evidence gathered from four women cooperating with authorities.

One of the women told investigators that she entered the country illegally on her own in 2006 and was recruited by the operators of the ring as a waitress when she was 17-years-old. She said she had been repeatedly beaten and raped.

She eventually agreed to perform stripteases and to be fondled by patrons after ring operators threatened to report her to federal officials as an undocumented resident. She also said she was repeatedly raped by one of the operators of the ring, who smashed her head into the pavement of a parking lot repeatedly as a way of enforcing discipline.

The woman said she had been told she would receive a salary of $40 a day and would be paid half of the $20-a-shot glasses of tequila she convinced the patrons to buy. But she was not initially told that she would also be expected to work as a prostitute. She said she was also told that if she attempted to go to the police she would murdered.

The operators of the alleged scheme were identified as Antonio Rivera, 34, of Patchogue; his sister Jasmin Rivera, 31, of Medford; and John Whaley, of Bellport.

Antonio Rivera is listed as a sex offender and served time on a 1998 conviction for the rape of a 13-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl, according to New York State records.

They are accused of slavery, trafficking in sex workers, and harboring undocumented workers through threats of force and are due to be arraigned this afternoon.

[Based on a report by newsday.com.]

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