It is easy to think of sex trafficking as something that only happens far off in Asia or in the movie Taken. But human trafficking happens in America as well. This week, in Lakewood, New Jersey, Jose Cruz “Chato” Romero-Flores, along with his girlfriend and four male associates, were arrested in a human trafficking bust, reports USA Today.
Romero-Flores allegedly ran three brothels in Lakewood and filled them with women lured from their homes in Latin America with promises of jobs as house cleaners or babysitters. In these brothels, women were forced to serve up to 40 clients in a single day.
According to USA Today, acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said, “This case bears the classic hallmarks of international sex-related human trafficking in that we have young women brought illegally into the United States. They are fearful and they are vulnerable because of their illegal status, their inability to earn a living legitimately and their lack of a network of supportive family and friends.”
Operations like this are not exactly rare in the United States. New Jersey plans to redouble its efforts and crack down on human trafficking. A huge concern is the 2014 Super Bowl, which will take place at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. The Super Bowl has historically been the site of large scale human trafficking, and the proximity of the venue to New York City may only make things more complicated. To fight this, Hoffman asks citizens to do their part. He said,”If you find that there is a house in which there is a constant influx of new people coming in and out … especially in residential neighborhoods, those are fairly odd occurrences, and worthy of note and worthy of the attention of law enforcement.”
Although some of the victims of Romero-Flores’ brothels were found when the homes were raided, some women are still missing. Romero-Flores and his five associates, however, are all being held at Ocean County Jail with Romero-Flores’ bail was set at $1 million and the other defendants’ bail set at $100,000. All six are reportedly living illegally in the Unites States from Mexico. Hopefully this bust will help to spread awareness that sex trafficking can happen anywhere.
[Photo via USA Today]