Sex trafficking in Queens, New York

Startling accusations were set forth in a March 2018 indictment by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. Over a span of eleven years, Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas and his brother Rosalio Melendez-Rojas, together with other relatives, had smuggled young women from Mexico into the United States, where they were forced to work as prostitutes in New York City and elsewhere.

The indictment listed sixteen counts, including sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling and money laundering conspiracy. The victims of this sex trafficking operation were identified as Jane Does #1 through 6.

Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas and Rosalio Melendez-Rojas had been arrested in Mexico in February 2018, and extradited to the U.S. in October. This followed the arrest of their three co-defendants in the United States, in July 2017. This followed an investigation by ICE Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Mexican Federal Police.

Testimony in Brooklyn Federal Court

This week, “Jane Doe #1” described to a jury in Brooklyn Federal Court how her captors threatened her life if she didn’t prostitute herself in Queens, New York.

The victim recalled being smuggled from Mexico to Queens in 2010, saying her captors kept her in a locked room and taught her the prostitution trade when she was only 14-years-old.

In her testimony, she recalled being threatened by Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas, whom she described as her boyfriend at the time, that he would kill her family if she didn't comply with his demands. They knew where my family lived and I didn’t want my family to be hurt, she recounted.

According to prosecutors, the Melendez-Rojas brothers and their three co-defendants smuggled girls and women into the U.S. from 2006 to 2017. At least six victims ranging in age from 14 to their early 20s were ferried by the defendants to clients in apartments in the Queens, New York neighborhoods of Flushing and Corona.

This is how federal prosecutor Gillian Kassner described the victims' daily ordeal, as quoted by the New York Daily News: In forcing their victims into prostitution, the defendants employed a delivery service model, where drivers took the women and girls to clients all night long … Each session lasted about 15 minutes and it cost about $30. During a six- to seven-hour shift, a girl would typically see between 15 and 20 men.

Update: March 14, 2020

After a two-week trial in Brooklyn Federal Court, a jury returned guilty verdicts convicting three brothers, Jose Miguel Melendez-Rojas, Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas and Rosalio Melendez-Rojas, along with nephew Francisco Melendez-Perez, and cousin Abel Romero-Melendez, of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling and money laundering conspiracy.

When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Allyne R. Ross, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on the most serious charge.

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