March 5, 2014

USA: Savannah Federal Judge Sentences Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, aka El Flaco To Life In Prison For Sex-Trafficking aka Sex Slavery

Savannah Morning News
written by Staff
Thursday February 20, 2014

One of the lead defendants in an international sex-trafficking case prosecuted in federal court in Savannah was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.

Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, aka El Flaco, was sentenced to life in prison by Senior U.S. District Court Judge B. Avant Edenfield, said James Durham, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Mendez-Hernandez, 35, formerly of Mexico, was the leader of a sex-trafficking conspiracy that exploited dozens of women and operated in Savannah and parts of Florida, North Carolina and Mexico, Durham said.

There is no parole in the federal system.

Mendez-Hernandez was one of 23 people convicted as a result of an investigation dubbed Operation Dark Night that resulted in the rescue of 12 victims.

“It is reprehensible that an international sex-trafficking organization set up shop within our very own communities,” said U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver in a prepared statement. “This organization destroyed the lives of many victims through fear, violence, and intimidation, all for the love of money. Those responsible will now pay the price in a federal prison.”

According to evidence presented during numerous guilty plea and sentencing hearings, local and federal law enforcement agencies identified and dismantled an international sex-trafficking enterprise that spread from Mexico to Savannah.

Members of the organization enticed women from Mexico, Nicaragua, and elsewhere to travel to the United States with false promises of the American Dream. Once inside the United States, the women were threatened and forced to commit acts of prostitution at numerous locations in Savannah and throughout the Southeast, Durham said. Women were forced to engage in sexual activity with as many as 50 people a day, he said.

To make sure the women complied, members of the organization threatened the women, used violence against them, and held children hostage in Mexico, Durham said. Members of the organization would also trade their victims to other members who operated in other states, such as Florida and North and South Carolina.

Each of the 23 defendants arrested in Operation Dark Night have pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

Two additional defendants, Eugenio Prieto-Hernandez and Daniel Ribon-Gonzalez, remain fugitives.

Operation Dark Night represents the largest sex-trafficking investigation ever prosecuted in the Southern District of Georgia.

The operation was conducted by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP Air and Marine Operations, IRS-Criminal Investigations, Coast Guard Investigative Services, Savannah-Chatham police, Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, Garden City police and the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team.

Assistant United States Attorneys Tania Groover and Greg Gilluly prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.


• Eugenio Prieto-Hernandez – Fugitive

• Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez (a/k/a “El Flaco”) – life in prison

• Juan Carlos Pena – 240 months in prison

• Luisa Capilla-Lancho – 60 months in prison

• Jorge Lira-Xochicale – 66 months in prison

• Mayer Sanchez-Calderon – 180 months in prison

• Claudio Sanchez-Calderon – 180 months in prison

• Omar Peralta-Rodriquez – 37 months in prison

• Neurby Celenia Diaz – 72 months in prison

• Antonio Ubaldo Mendez-Lopez – 46 months in prison

• Cesar Aguilar-Rebollar – 21 months in prison

• Sylvia Barrera – 27 months in prison

• David Reyes – 18 months in prison

• Antonio Ramirez-Catalan – 48 months in prison

• Jose Ricardo Vazquez-Garcia – 36 months in prison

• Daniel Ribon-Gonzalez – Fugitive

• Marisol Ferreriras – 13 months in prison

• Paresh Patel – 7 months in prison

• Sergio Valazquez Martinez – 12 months in prison

• Fernando Pelayo Silverio – 18 months in prison

• Arturo Salquil-Gomez – 12 months in prison

• Jose Hernandez Trujillo – 25 months in prison

• Silvstre Aguilar Sayago – 27 months in prison

• Rodolfo Hernandez Guiterrez – 23 months in prison

• Alex Martinez Moncon – 22 months in prison


Homeland Security Investigations provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the United States during criminal proceedings. Victims may also qualify for a T visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions. Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the Homeland Security Investigations tip line at 866-347-2423 or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

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