Four admitted members of a sex trafficking conspiracy had their sentencing date set Friday.
Ruben Cabanas-Torres, Donaciano Tecpa-Tecpa, Esteban Acosta-Munoz and Maria Garcia-Moreno have all pleaded guilty to their parts in a scheme to bring Hispanic women from Georgia to Aiken County “with intent that such individuals engage in prostitution.”
They are now set to be sentenced on March 21 in front of U.S. District Court Chief Judge Margaret Seymour.
They face sentences of between two years, nine months and four years, five months, according to the federal sentencing deadlines.
In September 2012, five individuals were indicted on charges of being part of the criminal conspiracy to transport prostitutes.
One of those indicted as part of the conspiracy has since had the charges against her dropped.
Maria de Jesus Roque-Llanas was originally charged with being part of the conspiracy; however, those charges have been dismissed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Dismissal is warranted in this case for the following reasons,” the dismissal motion reads. “The investigation revealed that the defendant’s only role in the scheme was her agreement to transport herself across state lines to serve as a prostitute. There was no evidence of her involvement with the recruitment, harboring or promotion of any other prostitutes.”
Roque-Llanas pleaded guilty to the minor offense of “improper entry by an alien.” All others in the case have been charged with the same offense.
At a hearing where three of the defendants pleaded guilty, specific evidence of the gruesome allegations was presented. Women being forced into prostitution, rape and kidnapping were described as they admitted their part in the conspiracy that focused locally on Aiken and Lexington counties. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tommie DeWayne Pearson laid out the scheme, which “had been going on for quite some time” with an investigation began in Lexington County after a victim’s story was brought to light.
Police and federal law enforcement were informed that this victim was recruited for a legitimate job while shopping at a West Columbia Walmart, but then disappeared for a week. She returned after being dumped in a rural area having been beaten, raped, held against her will and forced into prostitution, according to court testimony.
Testimony from the victim led Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to residences in Monetta and Leesville that were being used as “makeshift brothels.” The brothels were being run or secured by the defendants.