The woman behind a brothel in Houston’s East End has been sentenced for leading an international sex-trafficking ring that forced women and girls into prostitution.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner sentenced Hortencia Medeles-Arguello to life in prison. She was 68 when she was convicted last April for sex trafficking, conspiracy and money laundering.
Twelve victims rescued in connection with the case testified at her trial. They said they were recruited in their home countries, but forced into prostitution in Houston. Six other victims presented testimony at the sentencing hearing.
Some $2.5 million in property and other assets will be forfeited, since they were purchased with sex trafficking proceeds.
Prosecutors say Medeles-Arguello made more than $1.6 million in a 19-month period by supplying girls for clients in rooms on the upper floor of Las Palmas II, a cantina on Telephone Road.
Fourteen other co-defendants have been sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy. Many admitted working for the cantina, knowing that it harbored and shielded undocumented immigrants who worked there.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson says some were as young as 14 when recruited by traffickers. He says the victims came from their home countries hoping for a better life, only to be enslaved and forced into prostitution.