Highly Profitable Scheme Prostituted Foreign Nationals and South Florida Residents
Miguel A. Hernandez, 50, of Miami Beach, Florida, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for operating a prostitution enterprise that profited from the prostitution of multiple women, including both foreign nationals and Miami-area residents, for his financial gain.
Hernandez pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the Southern District of Florida on May 11, 2016, to four counts of using a facility of interstate commerce to promote an unlawful activity and four counts of importing and attempting to import an alien for prostitution purposes.
According to documents filed in the case and evidence presented in court, Hernandez began operating a highly profitable prostitution enterprise known as “International Playmates” from a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2010. Hernandez and others, including his brother and co-defendant, Eduardo Hernandez, recruited many of the women who worked for him from other countries, including Spain, Colombia, Venezuela and other Central and Latin American countries. To facilitate the operation, Hernandez and his associates reserved and paid for plane tickets for foreign nationals to enter the United States, completed immigration paperwork, coached foreign nationals on what to say to customs officials when entering the United States and picked foreign nationals up at the airport. Hernandez openly advertised his business on the Internet and deposited the cash proceeds into multiple bank accounts.
As part of Hernandez’s enterprise, he engaged numerous individuals in the scheme, including overseas recruiters to identify more women; drivers to transport women to dates with prostitution clients; a website technician to advertise the enterprise’s services; various female associates to help manage the enterprise; and Eduardo Hernandez to aid in operation of the scheme. According to documents filed in the case and evidence presented in court, Hernandez used physical force on at least two occasions against two different women, both Spanish nationals, and prostituted at least three minors for his profit.
“The Civil Rights Division commends our federal partners for their steadfast commitment to combating human trafficking and related crimes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This case is a testament to our shared goal of bringing traffickers to justice and vindicating the rights of vulnerable women and girls exploited for financial profit.”
“This case is just one example of the Anti-Trafficking Coordintion Teams’ steadfast dedication to the prosecution of those who exploit others for personal financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida commends the collective commitment from our law enforcement partners to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities from victimization.”
“Human trafficking is one of the most despicable crimes we investigate,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Selby of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami. “HSI is committed to stopping the exploitation of those who are powerless to defend themselves, and bringing to justice those who would wantonly disregard these victims’ dignity for their own personal enrichment. We will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to make sure that individuals involved in this crime are brought to justice.”
“Diplomatic Security’s global presence enables our agency to serve as a liaison between U.S. and foreign law enforcement counterparts, assisting both in their efforts to stop human trafficking,” said Director Bill A. Miller of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). “Today’s sentencing demonstrates how our unique placement at more than 275 diplomatic missions positions us well to stem the tide of human trafficking and target the criminals who prey on these victims.”
Hernandez was previously convicted and sentenced to confinement in Spain for immigration fraud offenses in violation of Spanish law, but fled to the United States before serving his sentence. Eduardo Hernandez pleaded guilty for his role in the enterprise on May 3, 2016, and was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment last week.
The case was investigated by HSI and DSS, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Olivia S. Choe and Jonathan Kobrinski of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Matthew T. Grady of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
The Southern District of Florida is one of six Phase I Pilot Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams (ACTeams) convened through an interagency collaboration of the Departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security to develop high-impact federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud and coercion.