Four Queens residents who are members of the same family were convicted of sex trafficking and other crimes on Oct. 19 following a four-week-long trial in Brooklyn federal court.
Luz Elvira Cardona, 35; Roberto Cesar Cid Dominguez, 60; Blanca Hernandez Morales, 53; and Jose Facundo Zarate Morales, 34, were found guilty by a federal jury for their roles in a major sex trafficking ring that smuggled minors from Mexico for prostitution in the New York area. The four defendants were members of their family-run Cid-Hernandez Sex Trafficking Organization were found guilty on all counts of transportation of minors, sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion, promotion of prostitution, use of interstate facilities to commit bribery and related conspiracy counts.
As proven at trial, since approximately 2002, the defendants — all of whom are related by blood or common-law marriage — used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to cause young women and minor girls from Mexico to engage in prostitution in the United States. Members of the organization pressured the victims, including two minor victims, to travel to the United States with false promises of employment and a better life. When the young girls arrived in New York, they were forced by the defendants to work in prostitution.
During the trial, a victim testified that she was 15 years old and living in Mexico in 2007 when Cardona, her aunt, offered to pay travel expenses to New York City, where the teen could work as a cleaner. The victim did not know that Cardona, along with her partner Zarate Morales, his mother Hernandez Morales, and her partner Cid Dominguez, were operating a prostitution business. After the victim arrived in Queens, Cardona and Zarate Morales brokered a deal with a client to sell her virginity and thereafter, she was forced to engage in commercial sex with 20 or more men daily.
Although the Cid-Hernandez Sex Trafficking Organization was based in Queens, young women and minor girls were transported to prostitution clients throughout New York state and Connecticut, according to federal prosecutors. The organization controlled “routes,” which were comprised of contact lists of potential clients in specific areas and employed individuals who served as drivers. Cid Dominguez also bribed Village of Brewster Police Officer Wayne Peiffer with free sexual services to ensure the organization’s protection from law enforcement in his jurisdiction. Peiffer pleaded guilty in April 2022 to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery. Peiffer is awaiting sentencing.
“Today’s verdict is a milestone in the dismantling of a sex trafficking organization that exploited young women and minors, it is justice for the vulnerable victims who suffered so much pain and suffering, and it is a reckoning for the perpetrators who will soon learn the consequences for their deplorable crimes,” U.S. Attorney Peace said. “It is my hope that the convictions bring some measure of solace to the victims on their paths to healing.”
The verdict followed a four-week trial before U.S. District Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall. When sentenced, the defendants each face up to life in prison, except for Cid Dominguez, who faces up to 40 years in prison.