By Jeremy Walsh
A Mexican matriarch accused of organizing a ring that smuggled women from Mexico to Corona for prostitution accepted a plea deal with prosecutors Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court as her case went to trial, the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York said.
Consuelo Carreto Valencia, 59, was indicted on 27 counts, including charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, sex trafficking, forced labor and alien smuggling, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Valencia pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking, prosecutors said. She will likely be sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000, prosecutors said.
Valencia was arrested in Mexico in 2005, a year after immigration agents raided two Corona apartments suspected of being used as brothels at 104-56 41st Ave. and 37-71 104th St., prosecutors said. She was extradited to the United States in January 2007, authorities said.
Valencia is the mother of two of the co-defendants in the case, and prosecutors are calling her the matriarch of a family-run prostitution ring.
Offering promises of stability and marriage, the ring lured women from around the 24,000-person central Mexican town of San Miguel Tenancingo, prosecutors said.
Instead, the group used psychological torture and threats of violence to force the women into a life of prostitution, prosecutors said. Valencia is accused of keeping some of the women at her home and isolating, intimidating and threatening them, court papers show.
Once the women were smuggled into the city, their handlers controlled every aspect of their lives, court papers said, forcing them to work 12-hour days at a rate of between $25 and $35 per sex act. The owners and managers of the brothels took half of that and members of the Carreto family took the other half, prosecutors said.
The Carreto family bribed police and hired a lawyer to deter the women from escaping, prosecutors said.
Four men, Josue Carreto, Gerardo Carreto, Daniel Alonso and Eliu Fernandez, were arrested in the raids, police said. They pleaded guilty to similar charges in April 2005, prosecutors said.
Josue and Gerardo Carreto were sentenced to 50 years in prison, while Alonso was sentenced to 25 years in prison, court papers show. Fernandez pleaded guilty to a single count of sex trafficking and was sentenced to 80 months in prison, according to the papers.
The incidents helped raise awareness of a problem in immigrant neighborhoods. Approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
City Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights), whose district includes Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, has also urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow victims of trafficking to spend less time testifying in federal court.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.