MACON CO., GA (WALB) - Federal authorities arrested 29 people in 13 cities across eight states Thursday on sex trafficking and related charges in "Operation Safe Haven," which originated in Moultrie.
Colquitt County residents are behind bars as part of the raid, said United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Michael J. Moore.
The operation, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), began in Moultrie, and identified a loosely affiliated organization that coordinates the movement of Hispanic women and girls throughout the southeastern United States. The traffickers worked as independent operators and coordinated the movement and delivery of women for sexual purposes.
Six Colquitt County residents, Jose Roberto Laines, AKA "El Viejon, 59, Galdino Benitez, 57, Carmen Michelle Pecina, 42, Uvaldo Barrioz Perez, John McLeod, 33, and Juan Gomez, 52, were all taken into custody, and charged with conspiracy to transport a person in interstate commerce for prostitution. Nine suspects remain at large.
Law enforcement officers rescued 15 potential victims of fraud, force or coercion, in the brothels and residences searched yesterday.
Operation Safe Haven was led by HSI-Savannah with assistance from Savannah Chatham Metropolitan P.D, Savannah State University P.D., Chatham Narcotics Team, Colquitt County SO, Pierce County SO, CBP AMO, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, Coast Guard Investigative Service and Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office.
Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Here is the list of the people arrested: