A man charged in connection with a sex-trafficking ring pleaded guilty on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg.
Elin Naun Coello-Ordonez, 32, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to coerce and transport a woman by force for prostitution.
“Mr. Coello-Ordonez forced the young victim in this case to engage in prostitution, then physically abused her when she resisted,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy Heaphy. “His despicable conduct has earned him a lengthy stay in federal prison. “We must do all we can to identify and aggressively pursue similar patterns of human trafficking, which is sadly on the rise in our communities.”
As part of a plea deal, a judge plans to sentence Coello-Ordonez to 10 years in prison on Oct. 15. Coello-Ordonez is already in prison serving a five-year term for entering the country illegally. Authorities indicted him on the prostitution charges after his conviction for illegally entering the country.
Coello-Ordonez is one of four defendants. Prosecutors say the four people charged operated brothels around the mid-Atlantic, including one in Harrisonburg.
Mario Ramirez-Larios, also known as "Tony," "Tono" and "Paisa," was charged with conspiracy to coerce and transport women for prostitution, transporting for prostitution and aiding and abetting transporting for prostitution.
As part of a plea deal, Ramirez-Larios, 45, entered a guilty plea on April 16 to coercing and transporting women for prostitution.
Judge Michael Urbanski scheduled him to be sentenced July 23. Ramirez-Larios faces up to 20 years in prison.
The two other defendants are: Iris Zenit Ayuso-Storer, also known as Yacaris Frias De Los Santos and "Tacha," 35, of Harrisburg, Pa. Cases against the pair are still pending.
The 17-count indictment states that Ramirez-Larios recruited women to work in brothels in Maryland, Pennsylvania and western Virginia. The brothels largely catered to Hispanics, according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors allege Coello-Ordonez was the ringleader.
"Coello-Ordonez has through force, threat of force, or coercion made his girlfriend ... perform sexual acts for a fee to customers and personally gained from this illegal enterprise," the affidavit states. " Coello-Ordonez brought [his girlfriend] into the United States illegally in August 2010 under the false promise of helping her obtain a legitimate job."
The investigation began in July 2011, when police responded to several 911 calls from a home at 601 N. Liberty St. Multiple arrests for prostitution in the 600 to 900 blocks of North Liberty Street have occurred since 2005.
Police say a woman told them that Coello-Ordonez took her to work in brothels in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, as well as in Harrisburg, Pa., Scranton, Pa., and Hyattsville, Md.
The prostitute and doorman were arrested, and the ring brought down, during an undercover operation at the Harrisonburg brothel, according to police.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org