Bay area human traffickers recruited girls and kept them drugged to obey and prostitute

San JoseAriel Guizar-Cuellar was sentenced to 460 months in prison for multiple child sex trafficking-related charges for his role in a Bay Area conspiracy to exploit minors for child pornography and sex trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp.

The Honorable Beth L. Freeman, Federal District Judge, handed down the sentence. Judge Freeman also sentenced one of Guizar-Cuellar’s co-defendants, Araceli Mendoza, to serve a 120-month prison term for her role in the same conspiracy.

Guizar-Cuellar, 41, and Mendoza, 30, both of San Jose, are two of the four defendants convicted in the child sex trafficking scheme. The other co-defendants are Jocelyn Contreras, 29, of Redwood City, and Alyssa Anthony, 30, of Gilroy.

Guizar-Cuellar, Contreras, and Anthony pleaded guilty to their respective roles in the conspiracy; in October 2021, a jury convicted Mendoza of her role in a minor victim’s conspiracy and sex trafficking. Judge Freeman scheduled sentencing hearings for Contreras and Anthony on November 8, 2022.

According to the defendants’ guilty pleas and evidence presented at Mendoza’s trial, Guizar-Cuellar was the operation’s leader, principal facilitator, executor, and primary financial beneficiary. Guizar-Cuellar admitted that over 16 months, he and the other three defendants established and operated an illegal prostitution enterprise that exploited numerous women and children.

Guizar-Cuellar acknowledged in his guilty plea that he and the other defendants operated a commercial sex enterprise and recruited, lured, harbored, and transported several underage women to work as prostitutes and exotic dancers.

Guizar-Cuellar rented rooms in various hotels and motels in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale, California, for prostitution activities and told the underage women not to tell anyone they were underage.

The youngest of the victims recruited into the prostitution enterprise was 15 years old. Court records in the case show that the defendants received thousands of dollars from the prostitution of their victims and then bragged about the proceeds to recruit more victims.

The case documents provide a harrowing description of the treatment of the minor victims. According to the evidence and trial testimony, Guizar-Cuellar subjected child victims and co-defendants to physical and sexual abuse. In addition, the victims were transported daily throughout the Bay Area and sexually exploited.

They were isolated from their families and support systems; deprived of food and sleep; and given cocaine, alcohol, and other substances to keep them compliant. They were deliberately supplied with methamphetamine to keep them awake to meet nightly earnings quotas.

The defendants posted advertisements for prostitution online repeatedly over many months, using photos of the children posing in nude and provocative lingerie. After one victim escaped and returned home.

A federal grand jury formally indicted the four defendants on April 7, 2016. Guizar-Cuellar was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; three counts of child sex trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591; and one count of child sexual exploitation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251.

On May 7, 2019, Guizar-Cuellar pleaded guilty to all charges. Mendoza was charged in the original and superseding indictments with conspiracy and three counts of child sex trafficking. On October 6, 2021, a jury convicted Mendoza on the conspiracy count and one of the child sex trafficking counts.

In addition to the prison sentences, Judge Freeman ordered Guizar-Cuéllar and Mendoza to serve supervised release sentences and pay restitution to their victims. Guizar-Cuellar remains in federal custody following the imposition of his sentence. Judge Freeman ordered Mendoza to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons in January 2023.

Contreras and Anthony pleaded guilty to a separate superseding information charging them with conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking. Contreras entered his guilty plea on Sept. 4, 2019, and Anthony entered his on July 21, 2020. Both await sentencing in November 2022.