Hortencia Medeles-Arguello went by several names, including Raquel Medeles Garcia and “Tencha,” but Texas knows her as the leader of the state’s largest sex-trafficking ring.
Medeles-Arguello was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor aliens, aiding and abetting to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money in April 2015, and on Jan. 21, she was sentenced to life in prison, KRGV reports.
Medeles-Arguello, who was 68 at the time of her conviction, was one of 14 people who were charged in connection with the sex-trafficking ring, which targeted immigrant women and girls. All of the other defendants have pleaded guilty, although one of the defendants, Alfonso Diaz-Juarez, is on the run.
One of the victims testified that she was forced to comply at gunpoint and locked up in her room. She was impregnated by a john and moved to a different location, at which point a customer she had befriended helped her escape.
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“We had to work six days a week from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.," another victim told Click2Houston. "On weekends we had to work later."
Some of the victims said they were forced into prostitution for more than 13 years, and Diana Medeles-Arguello, the defendant’s daughter, testified that her mother had been running brothels for at least 37 years, KRGV notes.
Some of the trafficking victims were as young as 14.
“She even charged up to $500 per hour for customers to have sex with the youngest looking children,” Mary Hammond, the IRS Criminal Investigation Houston Assistant Special Agent in Charge, told Click2Houston.
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“There were about 17 rooms at Las Palmas and the rooms were nasty, horrible, dirty,” federal prosecutor Ruben Perez added.
Over a 19-month period supplying girls to the Las Palmas cantina, Medeles-Arguello made more than $1.6 million, according to Houston Public Media..
When Medeles-Arguello was sentenced, property and assets valued at $2.5 million were forfeited to the U.S., but the money will be used as restitution for the victims, Houston Public Media reports.
“These women came to American in search of the American dream and instead they ran smack into the American nightmare,” Perez added to Click2Houston. “They didn’t come to America to be a prostitute, they came to make a better life for themselves, their kids, families and for their loved ones.”