NAPLES, Fla. — A two-year federal investigation into a sex trafficking and prostitution ring stretching from Naples, Fla., to North Carolina has culminated with 13 arrests and up to 11 women rescued.
John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is expected to announce the results of “Operation Dark Night” in a Thursday press conference.
The trafficking operation enticed undocumented women from Mexico, Nicaragua, and other countries to the southeastern U.S., court records show.
It was, as one source described to investigators, a “prostitution delivery service,” where the sex workers were given daily quotas -- upward of 25 clients for at least one of the trafficking victims, according to a complaint filed in federal court against a Collier County, Fla., man.
The women were rotated weekly from john to john and city to city, as recently as Sunday in Naples, an investigator noted in an affidavit.
“ICE investigates a wide array of crimes, but the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution is among the most sinister,” Morton said in a written statement obtained by the Naples Daily News. “Few crimes so damage their victims and undermine basic human decency. Our fight against this evil must be relentless, both here and abroad.”
One of the women -- who worked for an accused pimp in Collier County and was the girlfriend of the organization’s ringleader in Georgia - told her boyfriend she serviced 163 clients in the week she was based out of an area home, according to the affidavit.
U.S. marshals arrested Antonio Mendez-Lopez at that home Wednesday morning, and he is being held in a Lee County, Fla., jail pending extradition to Georgia to face charges.
(Reach Naples Daily News reporter Victoria Macchi at email@example.com. Visit naplesnews.com for updates.)