Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez, also known as “Norberto Hernandez Velasquez” and “La Gallina,” will be arraigned via videoconference this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn on a 12-count indictment. Along with his siblings Arcelia Hernandez-Velazquez, also known as “La Gordis,” and Ernesto Hernandez-Velazquez, also known as “Chapas,” Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez is charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling, money laundering and related offenses. Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez was arrested on a provisional arrest warrant in August 2020 and extradited on Wednesday, February 17, 2021, from Mexico to the United States. His co-defendants were previously arrested in New York in November 2019 and are currently awaiting trial.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), announced the charges.
“For nearly two decades, the defendants lured young women into a brutal life of forced prostitution through false promises of a better life,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “This Office will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to end the illegal exploitation of young women and in holding the defendants to account for their crimes and the lasting harm they have inflicted on their victims.”
Mr. DuCharme thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance, the New York City Police Department for its longstanding partnership in the Office’s coordinated anti-trafficking program, and the State Department. Mr. DuCharme also thanked the many victim service providers and advocates for their dedicated efforts to restore and improve the lives of survivors of trafficking. In particular, Mr. DuCharme thanked the organizations and individuals who provided services and advocacy to the victims in this case.
“Words can’t describe the type of person who preys on and victimizes women by forcing them into prostitution while using violence to maintain control over them. Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez and his organization did just that, treating women as mere commodities meant to be bought and sold rather than as human beings deserving of respect,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “As human trafficking operates in darkness, HSI works tirelessly to rescue victims out of the shadows as we investigate and hold accountable those who exploit and victimize others for their own financial advantage.”
As set forth in the indictment, since at least 2001, the Hernandez-Velazquez Trafficking Organization, a family organization based in Mexico, has used force, fraud and coercion to cause young women in Mexico to engage in prostitution in the United States. Members of the organization lured victims into romantic relationships through false promises of love and support. Victims were taken to the homes of members of the organization in Tenancingo, Mexico, where they were often not allowed to leave the home and not allowed to contact their families. The victims were pressured to travel to the United States with promises of a better life with their trafficker. After the young women were smuggled into the United States, members of the organization transported them to various states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, to engage in prostitution. In addition, the organization maintained a base of operations in Queens, New York. Members of the organization used violence, including physical beatings and forced abortions, and threatened violence to the victims’ families to force the victims to continue prostituting. The prostitution proceeds were sent to members of the organization in Mexico through wire transfers and cash shipments.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the charges, the defendants face life imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Civil Rights Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Margaret Lee and Erin Reid are in charge of the prosecution.
Queens, New York
Queens, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 19-CR-306(S-1)(WFK)