HOUSTON – A Houston bounty hunter and his girlfriend were accused of targeting, recruiting and exploiting young women from Colombia, according the U.S. Department of Justice.
HTown Hunter, also known as Luis de Jesus Rodriguez, 26, and his girlfriend Helen Leon Mesa, 28, are in custody after a grand jury indicted the couple for allegedly running an international sex-trafficking conspiracy.
Justice department authorities are accusing the couple of promising young women from Colombia a better life in the United States if they worked for them as dancers at a Houston nightclub.
"During the victims’ recruitment, the defendants also directed them to watch YouTube videos portraying Rodriguez as a bounty hunter, creating the false impression that he was a law enforcement officer, according to the allegations," explained the released statement from the department of justice.
Htown Hunter has several videos of Rodriguez working as a bounty hunter, but his website said he has since retired.
The indictment also said that once the victims were brought to the states, Rodriguez and Mesa would put them in Houston strip clubs and forced them, "into signing debt bondage contracts, ranging from $13,200 to $25,000. Rodriguez and Mesa also allegedly required victims to make daily payments of approximately $250 towards their debt."
Authorities said the couple would get victims to pay the daily quota by threatening to harm their families, monitor where they went and "ultimately forcing them into engaging in commercial sex acts."
The allegations in the indictment continue, stating the Rodriguez and Mesa acted in visa fraud to transport the victims. They're accused of creating fake backgrounds and occupations of the victims along with coaching them on what to say during the visa application interviews.
Rodriguez and Mesa are expected to make their first court appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena Palarmo on Monday.
It's still sealed, but the Department of Justice said there is also another person who has been charged, but not yet in custody.
The couple could face a minimum of 15 years to life in prison of convicted of sex trafficking. They could also receive a maximum of 10 years in prison for the visa fraud charges if found guilty.