Four members of a sex trafficking gang who transported illegal immigrants to Aiken and Lexington counties to be prostitutes have each been sentenced to more than a year in prison.

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 rural parts of Aiken County “with intent that such individuals engage in prostitution.”

Cabanas-Torres, Tecpa-Tecpa and Acosta-Munoz were each sentenced to a year and a day in prison and will be deported on completion of their sentence. All involved also were guilty of the petty offense of reentering the United States without permission.

Garcia-Morena, described as the “Ring Leader” of the group, was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

In court hearings, the four admitted their crimes and claimed that none of them have an education past elementary school, something defense counsel for Garcia-Moreno raised as evidence that his client was not the real head of an organization.

“Defense counsel also did not object ... that the defendant was an organizer or leader of criminal activity. The evidence would show by a preponderance that she did act in that role in the United States,” Assistant Federal Public Defender James Rogers wrote. “However, someone else was directing the operation from Mexico. With all due respect, Ms. Garcia-Moreno simply does not possess the educational background nor intelligence to mastermind such an operation. Someone had to be funneling the Hispanic women to her, arranging for the farm-worker customers to make contact with the operation and arranging for and scheduling how and when to pick up the Hispanic women from Georgia. Simply put, Ms. Garcia-Moreno is a victim herself.”

There was no mention of who or what the larger organization may have consisted of.

Maria de Jesus Roque-Llanas originally was charged as being part of this conspiracy; however, those charges were dismissed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 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.