Sex trafficking ringleader pleads guilty in Dark Night probe -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Sex trafficking ringleader pleads guilty


A man who has been called the leader of an international sex trafficking ring by federal prosecutors pleaded guilty last week to several charges in connection with the operation that ran in Savannah, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Mexico.

Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, "El Flaco," 35, formerly of  Mexico, plead guilty last week. He and was among 23 people charged earlier this year as part of Operation Dark Night, which has been called the largest sex trafficking investigation in the U.S. Southern District of Georgia. Mendez-Hernandez faces a possible life sentence. The 23 defendants have pleaded guilty and several are awaiting sentencing.

Two more defendants, Eugenio Prieto-Hernandez and Daniel Ribon-Gonzalez, remain at large. 

The operation spread from Mexico to Savannah. Those involved in the organization enticed women from Mexico, Nicaragua and other place to travel to the U.S. under false pretenses.  When they arrived, the women were threatened and forced into prostitution at several locations in Savannah and throughout the Southeast U.S. The victims were forced to engage in sexual activity with as many as 30-50 people a day, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.  Organization threatened the women, used violence, and held children hostage in Mexico to ensure compliance. Members would also trade their victims to other members who operated in other states.

"It is with great pride that I announce the convictions of all of the defendants who were indicted and arrested in connection with ‘Operation Dark Night.'  This case serves as an example of how local and federal law enforcement can work together to rescue women, save lives, and prosecute criminals.  In this case, justice was swift; and we expect the punishment to be severe," said United States Attorney Edward Tarver in a statement.

These 23 defendants pleaded guilty:   


  • Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, a/k/a "El Flaco," 35, Savannah 
  • Juan Carlos Pena, 55, Bonaire, GA 
  • Luisa Capilla-Lancho, a/k/a "Marisol" 32, Savannah 
  • Jorge Lira-Xochicale, a/k/a "Roger," a/k/a "Juan De Dios," a/k/a "Juan Diablo," 35,
  • Atlanta 
  • Mayer Sanchez-Calderon, a/k/a "Maye," 22, Charlotte, NC 
  • Claudio Sanchez-Calderon, a/k/a "Borrego," 43, Charlotte, NC 
  • Omar Peralta-Rodriguez, a/k/a "Erick Peralta," a/k/a "El Negro," 42, Baxley, GA 
  • Neurby Celenia Diaz, a/k/a "Dona Rosa," 48, Baxley, GA 
  • Antonio Ubaldo Mendez-Lopez, 46, Naples, FL 
  • Cesar Aguilar-Rebollar, a/k/a "Cesar Nicholas Jaime," 44, Tampa, FL 
  • Sylvia Barrera, 30, Warner Robbins, GA 
  • David Reyes, 29, Savannah 
  • Antonio Ramirez-Catalan, a/k/a "Joel," 30, Monroe, NC 
  • Jose Ricardo Vazquez-Garcia, 39, W. Columbia, SC 
  • Marisol Ferreriras, 38, Marietta, GA 
  • Paresh Patel, 55, Savannah 
  • Sergio Valazquez Martinez, 35, Savannah
  • Fernando Pelayo Silverio, 27, Savannah
  • Arturo Salquil- Gomez, 41, Savannah
  • Jose Hernandez-Trujillo, 29, Savannah
  • Silvstre Aguilar Sayago, a/k/a "Chucky," 27, Savannah
  • Rodolfo Hernandez Guiterrez, 44, Savannah
  • Alex Martinez Monzon, 36, Savannah


Twelve victims were rescued in the operation. Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 866.DHS.2.ICE or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.373.7888.  Anonymous calls are welcome. 

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