McALLEN — A common law wife and husband were sentenced Tuesday for their roles in the sex trafficking of two teens from Louisiana.
Abelardo Gomez, 39, and Cerena Camille Ortiz, 26, were sentenced to 13- and 9-year prison sentences, respectively, before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane.
The couple, from Edinburg, pleaded guilty for their role in the sex trafficking of two girls, ages 14 and 15, in 2015.
In exchange for pleading guilty to a sex trafficking charge in March 2017, the government dropped the remaining counts against Gomez, court records show.
Ortiz pleaded guilty to the same charge in February of last year, according to court records.
Crane, as part of the punishment, assigned both three years of court supervision following their respective prison terms, and they will be required to register as sex offenders.
Ortiz told the court during sentencing that she is no longer in a relationship with Gomez, whom she has children with.
A third man, Darieus Malik Williams, 21, also faces sex trafficking charges, court records show.
Government prosecutors said Williams, who ran a similar prostitution operation in San Antonio, traveled with Gomez to Louisiana in 2015, when they convinced the two teen girls to come back to Edinburg with them, forcing the victims to perform sex acts in exchange for money.
The investigation into Gomez, Ortiz and Williams began April 7, 2015, when the girls were found abandoned at an Edinburg gas station.
The girls told investigators Gomez picked them up in Louisiana without their parents’ knowledge or consent, brought them to Texas, and had been living with the couple for nearly a month, along with the couple’s children, the complaint states.
The girls told investigators they were forced to earn money in order to be returned home and made to work at a local strip club. Officers also found text messages that showed Gomez and Ortiz knew that the juveniles were promoting themselves online to engage in sex for money in the McAllen area while living with them.
Ortiz, who used the now-defunct Backpages.com page, took revealing photographs of the minors, according to the complaint. The photos were then used to create ads promoting prostitution.
Gomez and Ortiz admitted that during the time the females resided with them, the minors engaged in commercial sex acts with several adult males in their Edinburg residence, in motel rooms and in a vehicle belonging to Gomez.
Meanwhile, Bexar County was looking for Williams for his role in a sex trafficking ring that was broken up in July 2014, according to his arrest warrant.
Williams met a 15-year-old girl at a movie theater in July 2014, according to investigators. He introduced the girl, who had recently run away from home, to escorting as a way to make money. The girl told police the lifestyle seemed attractive to her.
“After (Williams) had sex with her to make sure she was ‘down to have sex,’ (Williams) along with the co-defendant photographed the victim and posted an advertisement on the social networking site known as mocospace.com,” court documents state.
Williams, who is facing a lengthy sentence, pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking on April 4, according to court records.
His sentencing before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa is scheduled for June 29, court notes show.