"Many of the females who are smuggled into the United States are brought to two areas: Union City, New Jersey, and Queens, New York," states the complaint, which was filed April 28 by Special Agent Joseph Salavarria of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The report was submitted to the courts as part of a recent investigation that resulted in agents raiding locations in Union City, West New York and Queens, N.Y.
Last week, Union City Police Chief Charles Everett said, "[Union City] apparently does have a problem, particularly with prostitution in various forms and mostly among undocumented immigrants."
During the early morning hours of Monday, May 1, federal agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided locations in Union City, West New York, and Queens, N.Y. and made arrests on suspicions of operating a sex trafficking network between New Jersey and Mexico.
Brothers Jose Luis Notario of Union City and Jose Ignacio Notario of West New York were brought up on criminal charges, and are currently being held without bail.
"We're not aware of the specifics of the investigation; we know that there was a suspicion of human trafficking and prostitution, as well as illegal [money transmitting]," said Everett.
"[ICE] informed us that they were in town, but this is their investigation and they have given us no further information," said West New York Police Director Tim Griffin.
Alleged 'safe house' on 42nd Street
According to reports filed with the U.S. District Court of New Jersey by Salavarra, ICE agents based in Newark had been conducting their investigation of the Notario brothers since June of 2004 when they began surveillance at Jose Luis Notario's Union City apartment located at 318 42nd St., which they believed was being used as the local "safe house" for prostitutes.
The criminal complaints also allege that Jose Ignacio Notario had been utilizing his bodega grocery store, located at 44C 50th St., as a location for selling the prohibited medications and other prostitution paraphernalia.
Criminal charges were brought up against Jose Luis Notario for allegedly conspiring with others to smuggle and harbor illegal immigrants in the United States, and for smuggling currency. An additional charge of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business was brought up against Notario and his brother Jose Ignacio Notario.
According to the ICE reports: From June 2005 to April 2006, agents observed a pattern of young females believed to be of Latino origin regularly entering and exiting the apartment. Some of the women were dropped off by vehicles with out-of-state license plates. The women were also seen carrying backpacks and carry-on suitcases.
Although agents made several arrests of suspected prostitutes, no additional charges have been filed, pending a further investigation.
"They are still trying to sort out how many were actually victims of the alleged [sex trafficking ring] and how many were willing participants," said Everett.
Union City police assisted in the raid of Jose Luis Notario's apartment on 42nd Street.
Agents believe that Notario had been smuggling medicines from Mexico such as antibiotics, abortion inducing drugs and condoms, which are typical of the prostitution business. Agents believe he may have sold some of the items at his bodega.
From last January to February, a confidential informant had been purchasing some of the goods provided at bodega under the pretense of running brothels in Pennsylvania.
The informant engaged in a recorded and monitored conversation with Notario on April 21, where Notario allegedly attempted to send $10,000 to Mexico, revealing an additional location as the currency drop-off point at Notario's Jackson Heights, Queens apartment.
During the investigation, agents also observed that Jose Luis Notario had been making weekly trips between Newark Liberty Airport and Mexico City since at least June 2004.
Investigators are alleging that Jose Ignacio Notario had hired a courier around June 2004 to travel to Mexico on a weekly basis with a promise of an even split of the profits, which were estimated at $4,000 to $5,000 a trip.
In June of 2005, Jose Luis Notario was stopped at Newark Liberty Airport by the U.S. Customs Border Protection at the request of ICE, and was found in possession of approximately $18,000 in U.S. currency and monetary instruments, some of which had been divided into separate envelopes with the name of the recipients on the outside, according to the reports.
Notario then admitted that he in part owned a courier business, where Mexican nationals living in the states were able to transport money and items back to their families in Mexico, agents reported. Neither of the brothers are registered licensed money remitters in the United States.
In his reports, Agent Salavarria states that, "As a result of my participation in numerous human trafficking and alien smuggling investigations over the last eight years, I have become aware that in the vicinity of San Miguel Tenancingo, Mexico, there are a number of families who smuggle Mexican females into the United States where they are forced to work as prostitutes."
He adds, "Once the females have been smuggled into the United States, a large percentage are transported to the East Coast, where they are put to work as prostitutes, some against their will." The report explains, "Many of the females periodically reside in 'safe houses' with their traffickers and/or pimps...Typically, the females work as prostitutes at a single location for one week, generally from Monday to Sunday. They are then transported, usually on Sunday evenings, back to the 'safe houses.' "
From there, they are sent out to brothels throughout the East Coast down to Virginia.
It was just last year that two Union City bars and one in Guttenberg were shut down and resulted in 10 people indicted on federal charges of illegally smuggling young Honduran women into the state and allegedly forcing them to work in the bars as sex slaves, although no connection has been made to Monday's incident.