Prostitution case alleges smuggling, forced abortions
Federal judge orders six of the eight suspects held without bail
By HARVEY RICE
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
A magistrate judge ordered a Honduran woman held without bail after testimony that she performed forced abortions on Central American women who had been smuggled across the border and forced into prostitution in Houston bars.
"We've talked to numerous females who had forced abortions," Agent Lina Castillo, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testified this week.
In one instance, authorities say, an aborted fetus was still alive when it was thrown into the trash.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith denied bail Tuesday for Lorenza "Comadre" Abdulia Reyes Nunez and five other people who were arrested last week and accused of running a sex-trafficking ring.
However, Smith set bail at $50,000 for Kerin Josue Silva, 19. He is the son of the accused ringleader, Walter Alexander Corea, 39, who owns and operates the El Cuco Restaurant in the 8100 block of West Tidwell.
Corea's attorney, Russell Mackert, denied the charge against his client.
The judge set bail at $100,000 for Olga Mondragon, 45, operator of the El Huetamo Nite Club, also known as the La Leona Club, in the 1800 block of Ojeman.
He denied bail for Corea; Maximino "Chimino" Mondragon, 47, owner of El Potrero de Chimino bar in the 12000 block of Hempstead Highway and the adjoining La Margarita Restaurant; and Victor Omar Lopez, 38, and Oscar Mondragon, 47, operators of the Mi Cabana Sports Bar adjoining Corea's El Cuco Restaurant.
On Wednesday, Smith denied bail for Maria Fuentes, 35, Maximino Mondragon's ex-wife and bookkeeper. All of the suspects are Salvadoran citizens or U.S. citizens of Salvadoran extraction except Silva, who was born in the United States.
Castillo, the federal agent, testified that Reyes Nunez, whom prosecutors first identified as Lorenza Reynosa, charged $300 per abortion performed for ring.
She said ring members promised girls and young women jobs as waitresses, but forced them into prostitution or to work as "pony dancers" when they arrived in Houston.
The dancers are companions for bar patrons who buy "pony beers" for the women for as much as $15 each, Castillo said.
Reyes Nunez performed the abortions so the women could continue working as prostitutes, Castillo said.
"These are just simply allegations based on third- and fourth-party statements," said Ali Fazel, Reyes Nunez's attorney. "We don't believe them to be accurate."
In the criminal complaint, authorities state that a woman identified as Christina told another prostitute that Maximino Mondragon forced her to have an abortion "to ensure that she would continue to make money working for him to pay off her smuggling debt."
Reyes Nunez gave her some pills, the complaint alleges, and "Christina became very ill and the fetus was born alive as a fully formed male.
"The child was then discarded and thrown in the trash," Castillo testified.
She added that the women were saddled with smuggling debts as high as $13,000, and that Corea paid about $4,000 in smuggling fees, then sold the women to bar owners for about $7,000.
The government has 30 days to seek an indictment against the eight after charging them.
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