Human trafficking and prostitution ring busted

Four locals were arrested for their alleged roles in the operation

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Victims will have access to resources and social services. Photo by Shutterstock
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Rodrigo Santander-Quito
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Daniel Morffi
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Anthony Quezada
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Edwin Mercado
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Victims will have access to resources and social services. Photo by Shutterstock
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Rodrigo Santander-Quito
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Daniel Morffi
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Anthony Quezada
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Edwin Mercado

Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella has announced that 22 individuals who allegedly orchestrated a Human Trafficking and Prostitution Organization in and around Bergen County have been charged.

The individuals were charged with allegedly trafficking women in Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, and Passaic counties, and in Rockland County and Queens County, New York, for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts.

The arrests are the result of a four-month investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti. In November 2020, members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Squad initiated “Operation Hope in Darkness.” The squad investigated a local human trafficking, prostitution, and money laundering organization.

Ringleaders

Birmania Rincon, Luz Rincon, Bernardino Hernandez, and Fernando Hernandez had been the alleged primary leaders of the criminal enterprise since at least 2015. They allegedly secured multiple female victims to work for them, fielding calls for up to 12 or more hours a day from men soliciting sex.

The ring allegedly employed drivers to facilitate the money laundering and prostitution operations. The alleged drivers were identified as Daniel Morffi, David Aguirre, Rodrigo Santander-Quito, Edgar Vanegas, Anthony Quezada, Edwin Mercado, German Ceballos-Orozco, and Gabriel Torres.

Four of the alleged drivers are from Hudson County: Quezada, 32 from North Bergen; Morffi, 24, from Weehawken; Santander-Quito, 34, from West New York; and Mercado, 18, from Union City.

Roberto Molina, Monserrat Gomez-Sanchez, Giovanni Morales-Degales, and Armando Garcia-Osorio managed and or supervised separate organizations.

The operation

The women were allegedly driven to various locations, working 12 or more hours a day, servicing 20 to 40 men per shift.

The organization charged on average $35 to $40 per 10- to 15-minute sessions, which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds each month. This money was allegedly collected by Luz Rincon, Catherine Echavarria, Fernando Hernandez, and Bernadino Hernandez.

The money was deposited into bank accounts, allegedly in an attempt to avoid currency-transaction reporting requirements. The proceeds allegedly paid mortgages and other property maintenance expenses on multiple properties owned by Birmania and Luz Rincon in New Jersey and Florida.

The organization kept 50 percent of the daily proceeds. The victims were given the other 50 percent, but their money was often used to satisfy a trafficking debt and/or wired to sex traffickers in the Puebla and Tenancingo regions of Mexico.

Making the bust

During the early morning hours of Feb. 3, more than 100 detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office executed 19 search warrants in Bergen and Hudson counties, and arrested 21 individuals. Birmania Rincon, the alleged ringleader, is currently a fugitive from justice and is believed to be in Colombia, South America.

The BCPO is working with federal counterparts to locate and extradite her to the United States.

More than 50 victims were identified. In partnership with the United States Department of Homeland Security Victim Assistance Specialists, and Covenant House, the BCPO is connecting these victims with social services.

Anyone who has been the victim of human trafficking should call the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Tipline at 201-226-5532. Victims will be connected with resources.

The charges are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutor Musella thanked the following: the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Homeland Security Investigations – New Jersey Division, Englewood Police Department, Paramus Police Department, Port Authority Police Department, Fairview Police Department, Hackensack Police Department, Hillsdale Police Department, Tenafly Police Department, Saddle River Police Department, Woodcliff Lake Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, and the Office of the Bergen County Clerk.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.