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Houston woman pleads guilty to sex trafficking in cantina backroom


HOUSTON (KIAH)– A 56-year-old woman Houston woman has pleaded guilty to several sex trafficking crimes, according to U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Maria Botello-Morales admitted to sex trafficking with force, fraud or coercion and conspiracy to do so as well as sex trafficking of a minor.

“Sex trafficking takes many forms. Violators can be male or female, young or old.” Hamdani said. “Trafficking is as diverse as the population of this district, and we will work side by side with our partners and continue to root out this evil that is nothing less than a scourge on our society.”

Court records accused Botello-Morales of recruiting a minor female in 2007 from Mexico. Botello-Morales allegedly caused the minor to engage in commercial sex and took payment directly from the commercial sex buyers.  

Botello-Morales also ran Puerto Algre from 2015 to 2020. Puerto Algre was a cantina in east Houston where several females were allegedly forced to engage in commercial sex in backrooms built specifically for that purpose. 

The victims reported they had started at the bar as waitresses, but later Botello-Morales allegedly told them they had to engage in commercial sex. If they refused, she threatened them with violence. 

Some witnessed violence and weapons at the bar and in the back area where the sex acts occurred. Each described how they had to take customers to the backrooms. They were given a condom wrapped in a paper towel, were to spend no more than 15 minutes in the room and charge approximately $70. On the way out, they had to turn the money over to whoever was guarding the room.

One victim also explained that when she refused to come to work, Botello-Morales sent someone to physically assault her.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen accepted the plea and set sentencing for June. At that time, Botello-Morales faces up to life in prison.  Botello-Morales has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.


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