The owner of two Suffolk County bars was convicted of sex trafficking after being arrested in 2009 after a raid of both bars, and has been sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Antonio Rivera, former owner of Sonidos de la Frontera in Lake Ronkonkoma and La Hija del Mariachi in Farmingville, who lured numerous undocumented Latin American immigrants to work in his bars as waitresses. They were then forced to perform sexual acts on customers in exchange for money – money which they had to hand over to Rivera.
Rivera’s accomplices John Whaley and Jason Villaman arranged meetings with customers, transported the women, and also sexually assaulted the women. Whaley and Villaman were sentenced to 25 years and 30 years, respectively.
Up to 70 women were interviewed by police and said that they were forced into prostitution or abused by the men. Many of the women were undocumented immigrants, and most came to the United States from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador.
According to a press release from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Rivera and others used “violence, including rapes and beatings, as well as fraud and threats of deportation” to coerce the women into continuing to work for him, and to prevent them from reporting Rivera to the police.
“These defendants preyed on some of the most vulnerable members of our society—young, undocumented women and girls seeking a better life—and brutally exploited them in a scheme driven by cruelty and greed,” stated Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin Jr. in the release. “Human trafficking is an affront to freedom and individual rights. The sentences handed down today affirm our commitment as a nation to bringing human traffickers to justice and restoring the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims.”
Though many of the victims are undocumented immigrants, Judge Sandra Feuerstein ruled that they will still be protected under law.
“These victims and other immigrants have the rightful expectation to be protected against those that may take advantage of their vulnerability. These three predators deserve the lengthy sentences they have received for the unforgivable acts they perpetrated against their victims,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Edward Webber. “The Suffolk County Police Department will continue to work jointly with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to curb forced labor, violence, and sex-trafficking within the county.”
[Source: Press Release]