Self-proclaimed ‘H-town hunter’ gets 15 years for running sex trafficking ring | #tinder | #pof | #match | #sextrafficking | romancescams | #scams

A Houston man who who billed himself as the “H-town hunter” was sentenced to prison Monday for running an international sex trafficking ring that recruited women at “casting calls” in Colombia by promising them lucrative exotic dancing gigs in the U.S.

Luis De Jesus Rodriguez, a former bounty hunter who described himself on his website as a “latter-day Tony Montana with a clean streak,” referencing the kingpin in the movie “Scarface,” admitted to federal prosecutors he paid for four women’s travel and visas.

The women learned when they arrived in the U.S. they owed him up to $25,000, debts he compelled them to pay back by peddling themselves to the strip club’s customers and elsewhere. A fifth woman, who immigrated from Cuba prior to working for Rodriguez, was told she owed him about $13,000 for his assistance as a pimp.

He pleaded guilty on July 8 to sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit visa fraud and international money laundering.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes heard from one trafficking victim who testified she suffered emotional, sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Rodriguez. Rodriguez apologized to his mothers, who were seated in the courtroom gallery. He told the judge he’d contracted COVID-19 while in detention and had had time to reflect on his conduct, according to court participants.

Prosecutors noted that the now 30-year-old trafficker convinced the women that he worked with law enforcement and could be trusted. But once they arrived in the states, he branded some of them with tattoos so they’d be identifiable as his property. He intimidated one recruit with a gun and knife and threatened to kill her daughter and parents if she tried to leave, according to federal prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Suh asked the judge to hand down an enhanced sentence, saying Rodriguez had tried to obstruct their investigation by telling the women to delete their phones and emails after investigators got wind of the scheme. The recommended sentence for traffickers with convictions as expansive as Rodriguez’s is up to life in prison, according to experts.

The judge said he considered the trafficking victims “crooks,” who knew they were coming to the U.S. under false pretenses, according to people present in the courtroom.

Hughes opted for 15 years, the minimum guideline sentence for trafficking a single victim, which is what Rodriguez’s lawyer Christopher J. Downey had requested. He must also serve 10 years on supervised release and register as a sex offender.

Two co-defendants were also convicted in the scheme. Alexander Victoria Isaacs, 41, was sentenced last year to the 22 months he’d already served for visa fraud and was deported to Colombia. Helen Leon Mesa, 31, who was in a relationship with Rodriguez, is set for sentencing next Monday on sex trafficking conspiracy and visa fraud convictions.

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