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TRENTON — The women left Mexico and put their lives in the hands of shifty border smugglers just so they could be baby sitters or house cleaners, anything that would pay enough for a nice apartment, a good meal and perhaps some money to send home. But it soon became a living American nightmare.
State authorities today announced the arrests of six people charged with running several brothels in Lakewood that were part of a human trafficking and sex slave network spanning New Jersey, New York and surrounding states. Lured into the U. The women were paid a pittance, he said, and trapped by the fear that they would be arrested for being in the country illegally. Women were also pressured to keep quiet through intimidation or threats of violence, Hoffman said. Authorities arrested Romero-Flores on July 11 at his apartment in Lakewood.
Four of his associates were arrested the same day, and his girlfriend, Odulia Bedran Trejo, 22, was arrested three days later, authorities said. Romero-Flores allegedly operated at least three brothels in the town, including one that was active at the time of the arrests, authorities said.
Hoffman said several victims of the sex-slave network were rescued at the time of the arrests and would be provided help through the state, but he declined to say precisely how many were involved or what would happen to them, citing an active and continuing investigation. Authorities said they believe several dozen women worked in the Lakewood brothels and estimated hundreds could be part of the entire network.
The women would see as many as clients per week, authorities said, and 40 in a single day. Department of Homeland Security after the two cases crossed paths. It began under former state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, who created a new Human Trafficking Unit within the state Division of Criminal Justice and ordered law enforcement across the state to bolster trafficking investigations. The charges in this case were the first to be filed by the new unit, Hoffman said.