International Sex Trafficker Extradited to the US for Family-Run Prostitution Ring

The pimps came from the notorious Mexican town of Tenancingo, where sex trafficking is a family business.
February 22, 2021, 6:39pm
A woman sits on a bridge
Tenancingo is considered to be the cradle of the Mexican sex trafficking industry. MATJAZ SLANIC via Getty Images.

MEXICO CITY - An alleged Mexican pimp nicknamed the Hen has been extradited to the United States for his involvement in a family-run international sex trafficking ring. 

A U.S. court charged 45-year-old Hugo Hernandez-Velazquez, known as La Gallina or Hen, for running the network along with his two siblings, who were arrested in New York in 2019 on similar charges.

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The Hen and his siblings hailed from Tlaxcala, Mexico's smallest state and the home of one of the country’s most infamous towns, Tenancingo. The small municipality of roughly 10,000 is considered to be the cradle of the Mexican sex trafficking industry where pimping is often a family tradition. 

“For nearly two decades, the defendants lured young women into a brutal life of forced prostitution through false promises of a better life,” stated Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The indictment alleged that since at least 2001, members of the Hernandez-Velazquez family have used force, fraud, and coercion to pressure women into prostitution. “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 family then smuggled at least six women into the U.S. and couriered them around the country to 16 different states. The two siblings arrested in 2019, Arcelia Hernandez-Velazquez, 47, and Ernesto Hernandez-Velazquez, 40, ran the U.S. side of the business out of Queens.

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The three siblings are accused of sex trafficking, interstate prostitution, people smuggling, money laundering, and other related offenses. The family “used violence, including physical beatings and forced abortions, and threatened violence to the victims’ families to force the victims to continue prostituting,” according to the indictment. The prostitution proceeds were then laundered back to members of the ring in Mexico via wire transfers and cash shipments.

“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 Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh.

But these kinds of pimping rings are nothing new for Tenancingo and the surrounding towns in Tlaxcala. In 2011, U.S law enforcement indicted over a dozen members of a different local group and rescued 20 victims, mostly Mexican nationals. Over the years, arrests have been made in both Mexico and the U.S. related to similar family operations, which generally follow a nearly identical blueprint.

The Tlaxcala traffickers practice a common modus-operandi, enlisting young men from the small towns to go hunting for young, vulnerable girls in neighboring states like Puebla, Hidalgo, and Mexico City. But instead of abducting them, they woo the girls, claim to be in love, and convince them to come back to Tlaxcala to meet their family. But often entire families are involved and that's when the nightmare begins.

Sister Maria Guadalupe, director of Centro Fray Julian, a Catholic organization that works to combat sex trafficking in Tlaxcala, told VICE World News in 2015 that “there are generations of networks with the characteristic of being families: brothers, uncles, cousins, mothers, aunts. Those same children say, ‘When I grow up, I'm going to be a pimp’.”