|Published:||Jan 17, 2013 10:43 PM EST|
|Updated:||Jan 17, 2013 11:07 PM EST|
GOLDEN GATE, Fla - Immigration officials arrested a Collier County man after a lengthy investigation termed 'Operation Dark Night.'
Antonio Ubaldo Mendez-Lopez, also known as Don Tonio, is accused of running a brothel out of his Golden Gate home.
Immigration agents say the man was part of a significant sex trafficking ring that brought women from Mexico and South America to states like Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
In a press conference Wednesday U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver compared this sex trafficking case to slavery saying it's shocking that we're still dealing with this issue in 2013.
The investigation began in Georgia three years ago and ended in more than 50 arrests, including Don Tonio.
From the exterior, the home on 17th Avenue Southwest blends in to this quiet Golden Gate neighborhood, but inside, court documents reveal Don Tonio was running a brothel.
One neighbor, too scared to go on camera, tells WINK News they suspected something was going on. "I would see late at night a taxi driver pulling up. 2:30 in the morning, women coming and going. Probably for the past year I've noticed it."
Over the past three years, ICE agents discovered Don Tonio and other men would bring these women to the United States illegally, promising them the American Dream, but instead they would threaten and force them into prostitution.
"Some of these women were forced to perform up to 30 acts of prostitution a day," says Tarver.
After a week, they would trade the women to other members. Neighbor Freddy Gularte is from Latin America where prostitution is legal, but he says he's shocked to learn a brothel was just across the street. "I'm scared for me, my daughter, my family."
Federal agents say they were able to arrest Don Tonio by tracking the cell phone of one of the victims when he picked her up in Tampa. They later found him at the Golden Gate home where they learned two of the victims were forced to perform more than 160 sex acts in one week alone.
"They were pretty quiet for what they were doing," says one neighbor. "It's shocking, very shocking."
In all, 11 women were rescued. While WINK was at the home Thursday, several men walked in and out of the house, but they would not say if or what they knew about the house being a brothel.
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