HARRISONBURG, Va. -- A citizen of Honduras, residing in Harrisonburg, pleaded guilty Thursday in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg to offenses related to human trafficking.
Elin Coello-Ordonez, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain and maintain a person in an interstate venture that used force, threats of force, fraud or coercion to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act. According to the terms of the plea agreement entered into Thursday, Coello-Ordonez will be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for the human trafficking charge. The defendant is currently serving a five year sentence in federal prison on a related immigration charge which arose out of the same investigation. In total, the defendant will serve 15 years in federal prison. The plea agreement is subject to final approval by the U.S. District Judge.
“Mr. Coello-Ordonez forced the young victim in this case to engage in prostitution, then physically abused her when she resisted,” said United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy. “His despicable conduct has earned him a lengthy stay in federal prison. We must do all we can to identify and aggressively pursue similar patterns of human trafficking, which is sadly on the rise in our communities. We must also connect the victims of these awful crimes with services and relief, as the scars of trafficking are extremely difficult to erase.”
“The exploitation of vulnerable young women and children in our nation is a problem that demands a strong response from law enforcement,” said HSI DC Special Agent in Charge Clark Settles. “HSI special agents are on the front lines of this battle every day, seeking out victims and bringing their tormentors to justice.”
“The Albemarle County Police Department is committed to working with our federal, state & local partners on addressing this very real threat in our community. This case is only an example of what we believe to be a growing public safety threat in our region,” said Col. Steve Sellers, Chief of Police of the Albemarle County Police Department.
According to evidence presented in court yesterday by Assistant United States Attorney Craig “Jake” Jacobsen, Coello-Ordonez arrived in Honduras in February 2010 and soon thereafter met Jane Doe #1 (the victim), a 17-year-old Honduras citizen, and the two soon became boyfriend and girlfriend. The defendant promised the victim that he could get her a waitressing job in Harrisonburg. Consequently, in August 2010, days before the victim’s 18th birthday, the defendant smuggled her across the border and into the United States.
Upon arrival in Harrisonburg, it soon became clear to the victim that the defendant was involved in the operation of a prostitution ring, which consisted of brothels located in a trailer in Harrisonburg and an apartment in Charlottesville. It became equally clear that there was no waitressing job for the victim. After several months, the defendant told the victim she was going to have to work as a prostitute and have sex with men to earn money. The victim refused. As a result, the defendant verbally and physically abused her. The defendant slapped, kicked and punched the victim until she agreed.
From January 2011 to July 2011, the defendant forced the victim to work as a prostitute at his brothels in Virginia, as well as brothels operated by others in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The victim was forced to have sex with as many as 30 men a day.
On July 16, 2011, the victim called 911 several times because the defendant was beating her. When the police arrived, the victim began to shake uncontrollably and told police the defendant had physically assaulted her. The victim had sustained multiple bruises and her right eye was swollen shut. The defendant was arrested and the victim placed in a rescue shelter.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Western District of Virginia’s Human Trafficking Task Force, headed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia. Agencies who assisted in the investigation include: U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (H.S.I.), the Albemarle County Police Department, the United States Secret Service, the Department of State Diplomatic Security, the Hyattsville, Maryland Police Department, the Virginia Fusion Center, the Computer Crimes Division of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, the Virginia State Police, the Harrisonburg Police Department and the University of Virginia’s Women’s Center. Assistant United States Attorney Craig “Jake” Jacobsen is prosecuting the case for the United States.
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