- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

NEWARK, N.J. — Federal agents yesterday rounded up 66 persons in a series of raids that officials said smashed a suspected human-trafficking ring that smuggled Mexicans into the United States and may have forced the women to work as prostitutes in the Washington area.

Officers with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided 15 locations in Union City, West New York and New York City early yesterday after New Jersey State Police pulled over two vehicles containing at least 10 women who worked in brothels in Maryland, Virginia and the District, said Kyle Hutchins, special agent in charge of the bureau’s Newark office.

“How many were doing it willingly, we don’t know,” he said. “We believe some of them had been trafficked.”

Agents were trying to interview as many of the women as possible yesterday afternoon, a process Mr. Hutchins said would be time-consuming.

The operation was at least the fourth major alien-smuggling ring operating in New Jersey in recent years. Prosecutions involving Russian strippers forced to work in go-go bars, and young Honduran women forced to work as hostesses in Union City bars are ongoing in federal court.

Mr. Hutchins said authorities were trying to determine whether the latest suspected ring was connected to either of the previous smuggling rings.

None of the prostitution involving the Mexican women took place in New Jersey, authorities said. Rather, when their weekly or monthly shifts in Washington-area brothels was finished, the women would be transported to northern New Jersey and New York by van, Mr. Hutchins said.

Thirty-six women and 30 men were taken into custody. All but two were being held on immigration charges for being in the United States illegally, Mr. Hutchins said.

Two brothers, Jose Luis Notario Guzman, 50, and Jose Ignacio Notario Guzman, 46, were held yesterday without bail. The older brother is in the country legally; his younger brother is not, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Jose Luis Notario Guzman faces three charges: conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, operating an unlicensed money-transfer business and bulk cash smuggling.

His brother was charged with operating an unlicensed money-transfer business.

The older brother owned the safe house in Union City where the women were kept after being taken by van from the Washington area, according to the federal complaint.

It said authorities began investigating after they noticed vehicles with out-of-state plates dropping women at his apartment on Sunday nights and Monday mornings.

Authorities traced the license plates and determined they had been used to transport prostitutes to and from brothels in New York City, Maryland and other areas, the complaint said.

Immigration officials also said Jose Luis Notario Guzman regularly transported money, including proceeds of prostitution, from Newark to Mexico City by using couriers.

The younger brother operates a bodega in West New York, where authorities said he stored and sold large amounts of condoms and illegal abortion-inducing drugs made in Mexico that were used in the prostitution operation.

An informant told authorities that he witnessed Jose Ignacio Notario Guzman remove the items from a drop ceiling in the store, the complaint said.

The public defender for Jose Luis Notario Guzman, Esther Salas, declined to comment after a court hearing in which the brothers were told of the charges.

The public defender for Jose Ignacio Notario Guzman, Paul Condon, said his client is not guilty of the money-transfer charge.

The arrests came the same day that illegal aliens and their supporters gathered around the nation to protest, boycotting work, school and shopping to show their importance to the country.

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