The many pimps of little Tenancingo in Mexico had cause to laugh as the Senate Republicans used a human trafficking bill to hold up the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general.
But the pimps—or padrotes—of that town 80 miles outside Mexico City have cause to cry now that the Senate has finally confirmed Lynch by a vote of 56 to 43.
Tenancingo has the highest per capita concentration of sex traffickers on Earth, by one estimate 1,000 out of a population of 11,000, five of them on the U.S. government’s 10 Most Wanted List.
As the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch has been the nation’s most aggressive and successful prosecutor of sex traffickers. Her office has indicted more than 50 traffickers and rescued more than 120 victims, at least 17 of them minors.
Big-time traffickers who imagined they were beyond the reach of American law in their gaudy homes (aka calcuilchil, or “houses of ass”) in Tenancingo (aka Caifancingo, or “Pimpville”) found themselves extradited and getting heavy prison sentences in Brooklyn federal court.
And Lynch did not stop there. Her office worked tirelessly to help “victim-mothers” regain custody of children who had been held hostage in Mexico as a way to keep them working as prostitutes in New York.
At least 14 children were reunited with their mothers. One woman had been separated from her child for more than a decade by a Tenancingo organization whose diminutive matriarch was dubbed “the mini-madam.”
In announcing that reunion along with the extradition of three major Tenancingo traffickers in 2012, Lynch presented herself and her office as only part of a larger team.
“These latest extraditions and the reunification of a victim with her child are the culmination of a sustained and committed effort by the United States government and its partners in Mexico to work together, and to work with their partners in the community, to identify, prosecute, and punish sex traffickers, and to restore the dignity and lives of survivors of this heinous crime,” she said.
Her closing words were out of a pimp’s nightmare.
“The sex trafficking of young girls and women is modern-day slavery,” she declared. “We will do everything in our power to eradicate it.”
With her Senate confirmation, Lynch suddenly has considerably more power. That is sure to translate into more pimp indictments and extraditions, as well as mother-child reunions.
And by sublime coincidence, her confirmation comes the same week as the 13th annual gathering of the Freedom Network USA in Washington, D.C.
“A national alliance of experienced advocates working with survivors of all forms of human trafficking to ensure that trafficked persons have access to justice, safety, and opportunity,” the Freedom Network says of itself.
The panelists at this week’s gathering include Suzanne Tomatore, the director of the Immigrant Women and Children Project at the New York City Bar Association’s City Bar Justice Center. She has worked with Lynch’s office to reunite victim-mothers with their children.
“It takes a very long time, a lot of barriers in the way,” Tomatore notes.
Tomatore has witnessed a reunion.
“Pretty amazing,” she says. “It’s a reward for doing this kind of work, to see family made whole again.”
Tomatore describes Lynch as a prosecutor with a deep understanding of the law who put together a team that has proven able to conduct complicated international prosecutions while demonstrating genuine respect for the victims.
“I can’t speak more glowingly of her team on these trafficking cases,” Tomatore says.
Tomatore was as stunned as anybody who has worked with Lynch that the Republicans would have chosen a trafficking bill to block her confirmation.
“It is so bizarre that they held up her confirmation on trafficking when she has taken up such leadership on this issue,” Tomatore says.
In successfully seeking the extradition of three Tenancingo brothers who worked as traffickers back in 2011, the Lynch team in Brooklyn submitted affidavits from three of their victims. One, identified only as Jane Doe 1, reports that she was 14 years old in February 2005, when she met a young man named Benito Lopez-Perez in Puebla, Mexico.
“A group of us went to the movies, and Lopez-Perez took everyone back to their homes,” she recounts. “Lopez-Perez dropped everyone else off first, and I was left alone with him in the car. Lopez-Perez told me he was going to pick up his jacket at his house in Tenancingo, a town next to Puebla, before taking me to my house.”
She goes on: “However, after we got to his house, Lopez-Perez invited me in to meet his family. Lopez-Perez left me alone with his mother, who tried to tell me how wonderful her son was and how lucky I was to be with him…When Lopez-Perez came back, he told me that he was not going to take me home. He took me to a bedroom and raped me. I tried to resist, but he did not stop.”
She continues: “The following day, I begged Lopez-Perez to let me go...Lopez-Perez then locked me in a room for most of the day...He told me that I could make money working as a prostitute in a bar…When I told him I did not want to work in a bar, he got angry and he told me I was going to do it whether I liked it or not. After he again locked me in the room for hours, he came back and asked me whether I had changed my mind. When I said no, he hit me and told me to shut up, and said that he would never let me leave. He threatened to kill my whole family if I tried to leave.”
She reports: “The next day, Lopez-Perez explained the rules to me, which were that I could never go out alone and that I had to do everything he said. I was also told that I had to obey Lopez-Perez’s sister, or she would beat me…Lopez-Perez’s sister took me to a bar in order for me to start working as a prostitute...[She] put me in a room with a man who raped me. Then [she] took money from the man and told me that I had to give her all the money I had and that she would search me to make sure I did not keep any of the money.”
“After I had worked for Lopez-Perez for approximately five or six months and I had turned 15, Lopez-Perez told me that we were going to cross the border to the United States because the work would be easier and he would make more money…He made arrangements with ‘coyotes’ to smuggle us across the border…We were transported in vehicles to Phoenix, Arizona, and then to Las Vegas, Nevada...We took an airplane to New York using fake IDs.”
“When we arrived in New York, I was forced to provide sexual services to clients at private residences, being transported from appointment to appointment by people who worked for Lopez-Perez as if it were a home delivery food service. On any given day, the minimum number of clients I served was 10 and the maximum was 40. I was forced to turn over all the money to the person who transported me, and if I tried to keep any of the money for myself, I would receive a beating.”
“This lifestyle continued for more than five years. During this time I was too afraid to escape, since I was beaten constantly by Lopez-Perez and other people who worked for him, and I had been warned that if I tried to leave, they would kill my family. Lopez-Perez would beat me and rape me regularly to control me. He would beat me with his fists and with objects like telephone cables and belts. Even after Lopez-Perez went back to Mexico, I was never left alone. There was always someone with me who was watching me to make sure I did not escape.”
“In or about August or September 2010, I escaped with the help of a Mexican couple I had met at a Laundromat…I went to a domestic violence center, and from there I was placed in a shelter for victims of this type of violence.”
Lopez-Perez and his two brothers were extradited from Tenancingo, whose status as Pimpville has been described in detail by Erica Pearson of the New York Daily News. The three pleaded guilty in Brooklyn federal court. Jane Doe 1 testified at Lopez-Perez’s sentencing.
“I can only describe my life in New York as five years in hell,” she said. “From the day I arrived in New York until the day I escaped, Benito forced me to work seven days a week. I was just merchandise for him. His associates, his clients treated me like an animal.”
She added, “At the end of the day I was bleeding and in great pain caused by these men.”
She recalled a recurring feeling after severe beatings.
“I was upset because he hadn’t killed me and that I had to live another day of torture.”
Lopez-Perez got 18 years. So did his brother, Anastasio Romero-Perez, who had romanced a 14-year-old, then forced her into prostitution, at one point kicking her so hard in the stomach that she vomited blood.
Another brother, Jose Gabino Barrientos-Perez, got 10 years. He had pressured the mother of two of his children into prostitution, saying they needed to pay medical bills for their first child, who had been born prematurely. He then smuggled her to New York to work for Lopez-Perez, where she learned the brothers had also snared her sister at 14. The sisters were subsequently rescued by law enforcement.
“Barrientos-Perez accused me of talking to law enforcement authorities, and he threatened to not let me see my children again,” the mother-victim says in court papers.
After the brothers were led from the courtroom to begin their prison terms, Lynch issued a statement.
“We hope that these sentences bring some measure of closure to the victims as they attempt to heal from the mental and physical abuse inflicted by these defendants,” she said.
Thanks to the Lynch team, the three brothers and a number of other traffickers were absent from the pimp contingent in Tenancingo’s annual procession in honor of St. Michael the Archangel in September 2014, and the same month in 2015.
The pimps still at liberty—particularly the five on the 10 Most Wanted List—could not have been happy to learn in November 2014 that their nemesis had been nominated to become the new U.S. attorney general.
Then, along with the pimps behind bars, they were given cause for amusement when Senate Republicans blocked a confirmation vote with, of all things, a human trafficking bill.
Anybody who gives such monsters reason to laugh brings shame on those who give it.
No doubt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be welcome if he heads down to Tenancingo next September and joins the padrotes in their procession.