Illegal immigrant charged with using other illegal immigrants to run sex trafficking scheme

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has accused an illegal immigrant of transporting other undocumented migrant women across state lines to sell them in a sex trafficking operation.

Maria Antonia Zavaleta-Perez, 40, also known as “La China,” is a Mexican national who had been living in the Goose Creek area of South Carolina, where ICE said they surveyed her transporting the women to and from her home from North Carolina. ICE alleges that either Zavaleta-Perez, who had no legal status in the country, or a co-conspirator would transport two women at a time from North Carolina and keep them at her home while delivering them to clients for prostitution.

ICE also indicated that the woman would occasionally host clients in her home.

Surveillance operations detailed in an arrest affidavit show that two vehicles containing an older woman and a younger woman would drive together and make various stops that were consistent with a suspected prostitution ring involving migrant women. A call recorded during surveillance suggested that Zavaleta-Perez would charge $50 for the women’s sexual services.

According to ICE, Zavaleta-Perez was pulled over for a traffic violation on Aug. 27, where she presented an international driver’s license and a Mexican passport. She had two female passengers with her, who likewise provided Mexican passports and reportedly looked to the senior woman for direction when police questioned them.

A later check-up on the passports revealed the two women had no legal authorization to be in the country.

A Sept. 19 search that revealed several items consistent with active prostitution, including condoms and lubricants, as well as “miscellaneous documents.” Zavaleta-Perez is currently being held at the Charleston County Detention Center on a federal violation related to illegal entry. She is expected to be transferred to the custody of U.S. Marshals.

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