Severiano Martinez-Rojas, 53, of Mexico, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman to over 24 years in prison for his role in the sex trafficking of three victims. The amount to be paid in restitution will be announced at a later date.

The defendant is the fourth member of an Atlanta-based Mexican sex trafficking ring convicted for their roles in compelling young women from Mexico and Central America to engage in commercial sex. Co-defendants Arturo Rojas-Coyotl and Odilon Martinez-Rojas previously pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and were sentenced to 16 years and 21 years and 10 months in prison, respectively. Both defendants were also ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution to the victims. A third co-defendant, Daniel Garcia-Tepal, pleaded guilty to alien harboring and received a sentence of time served.

“Human trafficking is disgraceful and unacceptable. Today’s sentence demonstrates the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to combatting these crimes,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a news release. “This sex trafficking enterprise was extensive and resulted in the abuse of young women and girls. The civil rights division of the Justice Department is thankful for the hard work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia, the FBI and the Homeland Security Investigations team who helped deliver justice on behalf of the victims and survivors.”

In a news release, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said, “Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that exploits and traumatizes some of the most vulnerable members of our society. We stand united today with our colleagues at the Department of Justice, Eastern District of New York and federal law enforcement partners, in applauding the courage of the three victims in this case who remained determined to see this prosecution to its conclusion. The lengthy prison sentence that this final defendant has received in this case is primarily the result of the valiant efforts of these human trafficking survivors to hold their traffickers accountable.”

In a news release, Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI’s Atlanta field office, said, “This case represents why sex trafficking is such a high priority matter for the FBI, our law enforcement partners and the nongovernment agencies who provide assistance to those with nowhere else to turn. As one of the worst examples of human trafficking, this case should resonate with those who might consider this reprehensible criminal conduct acceptable. We urge anyone with information about human trafficking activities to contact authorities and help put an end to modern day slavery.”

According to documents filed in court, between 2006 and 2008, Severiano Martinez-Rojas, Rojas-Coyotl and Odilon Martinez-Rojas lured the three victims into fraudulent romantic relationships using false promises of love, marriage and legitimate work. They then arranged for others to smuggle the victims across the border into the United States. Once illegally in the United States, the defendants used violence, threats and intimidation to coerce the victims to perform countless commercial sex acts in metro Atlanta and Alabama, where Severiano Martinez-Rojas also operated a brothel.

Severiano Martinez-Rojas was indicted in May 2013 but had remained a fugitive until his arrest in Mexico in November 2015 as part of a coordinated U.S.-Mexico bilateral enforcement action. The action also resulted in the arrests of seven other defendants in a related Eastern District of New York case. Severiano Martinez-Rojas was also charged, convicted and sentenced in that case.

Since 2009, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have collaborated with Mexican law enforcement counterparts in a bilateral human trafficking enforcement initiative. The initiative seeks to more effectively dismantle human trafficking networks operating across the U.S.-Mexico border, bring human traffickers to justice, restore the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims and reunite victims with their children. These efforts resulted in successful prosecutions in both Mexico and the United States, including U.S. federal prosecutions of more than 170 defendants in multiple cases in Georgia, New York, Florida and Texas since 2009, as well as numerous Mexican federal and state prosecutions of associated sex traffickers.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Atlanta division and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta. Assistance with the arrest and extradition of Severiano Martinez-Rojas was provided by HSI New York’s trafficking in persons unit, HSI Mexico City attaché office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the State Department, and Interpol. The government of Mexico, including Mexico’s Procuraduría General de la República and Policía Federal, also played a prominent role in advancing the bilateral anti-trafficking enforcement efforts in this case.

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