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Woman and son sentenced to prison for sex trafficking across southern border

Rita Martinez, a 65-year-old Mexican woman living in Mission, Texas, was sentenced to 360 months in prison, ordered to pay more than $840,000 in restitution.

Published: December 9, 2023 11:19pm

(The Center Square) -

A judge sentenced a Mexican woman and her son for sex trafficking a young girl across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rita Martinez, a 65-year-old Mexican woman living in Mission, Texas, was sentenced to 360 months in prison, ordered to pay more than $840,000 in restitution and surrender her house and bar to the federal government. Prosecutors allege she ran a sex trafficking operation with at least 14 identified victims.

Genaro Fuentes, a 41-year-old U.S. resident and Martinez's son and co-defendant, was sentenced to 72 months in prison and ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

"Martinez's decades-long business model was simple yet evil: travel to Mexico, entice poor, young girls across the border with false promises of a better life and then force those girls to engage in sexual acts with her bar’s male patrons," U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas said in a statement. "Martinez treated the victims like chattel, while physically and psychologically imprisoning them."

Martinez operated a bar known at various times as Perez Lounge, Rita's Lounge and Rita's Sports Bar, according to court documents. From the spring of 2005 to the fall of 2006, the 16-year-old girl lived with Martinez and worked at the bar.

Martinez arranged for the young girl to engage in commercial sex acts with men who were customers at the bar. Martinez also accepted money from these clients before allowing them to take the young girl out of the bar to engage in commercial sex. Martinez applied the money she received from commercial sex buyers to the smuggling debt that she imposed upon the minor victim to transport her from Mexico into the United States.

Martinez used coercive means to keep the women and girls under her control and to ensure that they would perform commercial sex with clients, according to the indictment.

"She saddled the victims with impossibly high debts, threatened to report them to immigration or the police, and warned them about the harm that might come to their families in Mexico," prosecutors wrote in the indictment. "She insulted and humiliated the women and girls. She physically assaulted them, including slapping, hitting, and dragging them by their hair, if they disobeyed her."

Fourteen victims were identified in the case. Payments are due to the victims immediately, according to the judge.

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