MEXICO CITY (AP) — U.S. officials say they joined Mexican authorities last month in arresting one of the leaders of a forced-prostitution ring that used young women from Mexico in a New York City operation.
The leader, Paulino Ramirez-Granados, was arrested in the small town of Tenancingo in central Mexico, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday in reporting the detention.
Mexican federal police said they arrested Ramirez-Granados on March 31 on a warrant requesting his extradition to the United States.
Ramirez-Granados is alleged to be part of a family group suspected of having tricked, threatened, beat and abused at least 25 women from Mexico to force them to work as prostitutes.
He had been listed among ICE's 10 most-wanted human trafficking fugitives since 2010. He faces U.S. charges of sex trafficking, alien smuggling, money laundering and conspiracy to import aliens.
The group was apparently centered in Tenancingo, an impoverished town in Tlaxcala state. The region has long been a notorious haven for pimps who use a combination of threats, abuse and broken promises of marriage and jobs to put women and girls, some only in their teens, on a path to sex slavery in Mexico City and in large cities in the United States.
Some victims say the pimps threaten to harm their children or other relatives to force them to work.
Thirteen members of the Granados family organization have been indicted in the forced-prostitution case, and all but one have now been arrested. U.S. agents identified and rescued 25 victims, all Mexican citizens, who were in New York.
According to ICE, the gang would befriend or romance young, uneducated women and then pressure or coerce them into prostitution in Mexico.
"They would then smuggle their victims into the United States and transport them to the New York City area to work as prostitutes," the agency said.
"Granados family members would take all money earned by the victims and maintain control over the victims through physical and sexual abuse and threats of harm to the victims' families," the statement continued. "Several of the victims had children with their traffickers and were threatened with the loss of their children if they did not continue to work as prostitutes and earn money for the Granados family."