More than 50 women were forced into prostitution in North Jersey, Rockland County and New York City by male members of a large-scale international human trafficking ring run by three women from Teaneck and two men from Lodi, authorities said .
A massive investigation into sex trafficking in both states culminated in a series of early-morning raids Wednesday at 19 homes and other locations in Bergen and Hudson counties – including Lodi, Teaneck, Englewood, Elmwood Park and Bergenfield.
Detectives and uniformed police and sheriff's officers arrested 21 ring members.
They also obtained a fugitive warrant for one of the accused ringleaders, 61-year-old Birmania “Nancy” Rincon of Teaneck, who Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said was believed to be in Colombia.
Rincon and others whom he identified as ringleaders brought dozens of women from Mexico to New Jersey to be “victimized and preyed upon by men,” Musella said Thursday.
Over the past five or so years, the ringleaders fielded calls “for up to 12 or more hours a day from men soliciting women for sex,” the prosecutor said.
Several drivers were paid to shuttle the victims back and forth to motels and other locations throughout Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex and Passaic counties, as well as in Rockland County and in Queens, he said.
Each victim was forced to work 12 or more hours a day, servicing anywhere from 20 to 40 men per shift, Musella said.
On average, they charged $35 to $40 for sessions of 10 to 15 minutes, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profits each month, he said.
Rincon and her associates – including Luz “Amy” Rincon, 59, and Catherine Echevaria, 28, both of Teaneck, and Fernando Hernandez, 28, and Bernardino Hernandez-Palacios, 39, both of Lodi – broke down the cash and deposited it into various bank accounts, the prosecutor said.
Although the organization split the proceeds 50/50 with the victims, the money was “often used to satisfy a trafficking debt and/or wired to sex traffickers in the Puebla and Tenancingo regions of Mexico,” Musella said.
As a result, he said, much of the money went to paying mortgages and maintenance expenses on various properties that the Rincons own in both New Jersey and Florida.
Dubbed “Operation Hope in Darkness,” the law enforcement initiative centered on a partnership among Musella’s office, victim assistance specialists with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Covenant House.
Together, they are “undertaking efforts to connect the victims with all available services to help them obtain a life free from sexual servitude and abuse,” the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, Musella’s staff was busy preparing cases against Birmania Rincon and the 21 defendants who were arrested as dawn broke Wednesday, when more than 100 detectives from his office fanned out with 19 search warrants in two counties.
The prosecutor identified the accused drivers as:
- Edgar Vanegas, 40, and German Ceballos-Orozco, 32, both of Bergenfield;
- David Aguirre, 25, of Englewood;
- Rodrigo Santander-Quito, 34, of West New York;
- Anthony Quezada, 32, of North Bergen;
- Edwin Mercado, 19, of Union City;
- Gabriel Torres, 30, of East Newark;
- Daniel Morffi, 23, of Parlin.
Identified as “managing and/or supervising separate money laundering and prostitution organizations throughout northern New Jersey and in New York” were:
- Roberto Molina, 46, of Hackensack;
- Monserrat Gomez-Sanchez, 35, of Elmwood Park;
- Giovanni Morales Degales, 32, of Corona, Queens;
- Armando Garcia-Osorio, 38, of East Elmhurst, Queens.
Also charged following Wednesday’s raids:
- Laura Garcia Maravilla, 34, of Lodi;
- Oscar Rincon, 41, and Jorge Rincon, 66, both of Teaneck;
- Joan Rincon, 40, and Bryan Jiminez Rincon, 32, both of Lodi.
Facing the heaviest charges, including racketeering, human trafficking, money laundering and promoting organized street crime and prostitution are Birmania and Luz Rincon, Hernandez and Hernandez-Palacios.
Charges against the rest include promoting prostitution and money laundering, among other offenses.
NOTE: Musella urged human trafficking victims, or those who know them, to contact the Bergen County Prosecutor’s tipline: (201) 226-5532.
“Services and assistance are available,” the prosecutor said. “We will ensure that victims are connected to resources.”
Musella thanked various law enforcement agencies for their participation in “Operation Hope In Darkness”:
- Bergen County Sheriff’s Office;
- Office of Homeland Security Investigations - New Jersey Division;
- Englewood police;
- Paramus police;
- Port Authority police;
- Fairview police;
- Hackensack police;
- Hillsdale police;
- Tenafly police;
- Saddle River police;
- Woodcliff Lake police;
- New Jersey State Police.
He also thanked the Bergen County Clerk’s Office.
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