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Border & Immigration

Smuggler Who Forced Women Into Prostitution Sentenced To 21 Years

A man who smuggled two women into the United States from Mexico and forced them to work as prostitutes in fields in San Diego County, keeping all of their earnings, was sentenced to more than 21 years in federal prison.

Adrian Zitlalpopoca-Hernandez, 35, was convicted in January 2010 of several charges, including harboring aliens for prostitution.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez handed down the defendant's 262-month sentence late Monday.

Zitlalpopoca was before the court for re-sentencing after an appeal.

Benitez told the defendant that the testimony of his treatment of the victims was among the "most evil" conduct he had ever heard.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy expressed gratitude that the judge, by his sentence, recognized the "particular depravity" of the defendant's conduct.

"It is our sincere hope that this prosecution serves as a stern warning to human traffickers that their actions will be prosecuted and severely punished," Duffy said.

The case arose from a joint investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and San Diego County sheriff's deputies into an anonymous report of suspected human trafficking activities in Vista.

The investigation revealed that two women were held at residences in Vista and that Zitlalpopoca regularly drove them to secluded fields in the area where he would employ them as prostitutes and maintain their profits.

At trial, both women testified that they were separately romanced by Zitlalpopoca in Mexico, introduced to his family as his "wife," coerced into prostitution with violence and threats, and eventually smuggled into the United States to continue in prostitution. Both women testified of numerous assaults by the defendant and threats of violence if they tried to leave or refused to hand over their cash.