Mom and son used ‘promise of America’ to lure girls from Mexico, traffic them, feds say

A woman and her son are going to jail after officials say they trafficked a teenage girl brought to the United States from Mexico.

Rita Martinez, 65, and her son Genaro Fuentes, 41, were convicted of sex trafficking, according to a Dec. 8 news release from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs.

Between 1996 and 2019, Martinez and others “recruited” women and girls in Durango and Coahuila to bring to the United States, according to an indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas.

Martinez used “the promise of America to lure vulnerable women and children into the United States and then coerce them into commercial sex acts,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in the release.

Once they were in the United States, Martinez would tell them they “owed her a smuggling debt” and had to work at her bar in Mission, Texas, to pay it off, officials said.

However, officials said Martinez would sex traffic them out to her bar to customers.

“Martinez’s decades-long business model was simple yet evil: travel to Mexico, entice poor, young girls across the border with false promises of a better life and then force those girls to engage in sexual acts with her bar’s male patrons,” said Alamdar S. Hamdani, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

Martinez would negotiate prices with customers and arrange dates with the girls, court documents said. When Martinez was absent, Fuentes would negotiate for her, according to officials.

Martinez would threaten to call immigration if the women or girls refused. She would tack on high debts and warn them that harm might come to their families in Mexico, in order to maintain control over them, officials said.

In some cases, if a woman or girl had a small child, Martinez would convince them to let her associates or family members “babysit” the child. Then, she would send the child off and limit the mother’s access to the child. She would tell them they had to work more and earn money to clothe and feed their kid, officials said.

“She insulted and humiliated the women and girls. She physically assaulted them, including slapping, hitting, and dragging them by their hair if they disobeyed,” the indictment said.

Fuentes would fill in for his mother at the bar. He would also drive the girls to motels to meet with arranged dates, officials said.

He would also sexually assault the women and girls when they arrived at his mother’s home, telling them he “had a right to try them,” officials said.

The indictment listed 10 victims.

Martinez and Fuentes were convicted in the trafficking of one 16-year-old girl, officials said.

Martinez was sentenced to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay $840,000 in restitution. Fuentes received a six-year sentence and must pay $20,000 in restitution.

“Today’s sentence will ensure that people like Rita Martinez are no longer able to victimize anyone in vulnerable or desperate circumstances,” said Doug Olson, acting special agent in charge for the FBI San Antonio Division.

McClatchy News reached out to the attorneys for both Martinez and Fuentes but did not receive an immediate response.

Mission is about 250 miles south of San Antonio.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

To report potential trafficking situations, you can contact the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or chat with the online hotline.

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