Sex-slavery ringleader sentenced to 60 years
A federal judge Wednesday imposed decades-long prison sentences on three men who beat, raped and intimidated young immigrant women from Central America into prostitution at bars in Lake Ronkonkoma and Farmingville.
About 25 to 30 young Hispanic women who had been victimized by the men sat quietly in the Central Islip courtroom, listening to Spanish translations of the proceedings on wireless headsets as the judge spoke in measured legal terms during the three separate sentencings.
Many of the women had submitted victim-impact statements to the court. The judge said the letters were made available to defense lawyers, but she placed them under seal and they were not made public.
The ringleader, Antonio Rivera, 38, of Patchogue drew the longest term -- 60 years -- from U.S. District Court Judge Sandra J. Feurstein.
Jason Villaman, 34, of Brentwood, a security guard at one of the bars, was brought into the courtroom next and drew a sentence of 30 years.
Feurstein imposed a sentence of 25 years on John Whaley, 33, of Bellport, who drove the women to and from the bars.
Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement later that the sentences "are fair and just punishment for the intolerable crimes that these defendants committed."
All three men were convicted by a jury in May 2011 of numerous counts of sexual trafficking, conspiracy, forced labor and immigration violations. All have criminal records, and Whaley's record goes back to when he was 7 years old, the judge noted.
Rivera was the owner of the two bars -- Sonidos de la Frontera in Lake Ronkonkoma and La Hija del Mariachi in Farmingville -- where the women were hired as waitresses and then forced to have sex with customers.
Almost all the victims who testified at the monthlong trial were young, undocumented women from Central America who said they were frightened that they would be deported if they contacted authorities about their mistreatment.
The women, many of them testifying anonymously as Jane Does, recalled the horrors of beatings and rapes over a period of years, including some rapes that took place while they were so drunk that they were unconscious or unable to fight back.
Defense attorneys argued during the trial that the women knew all along that they were being hired to have sex with bar patrons for up to $300 a night and testified to avoid deportation.
Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the Department of Homeland Security determined the witnesses were found eligible for temporary visas under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Their final status has not been determined by DHS, the spokesman said.