United States v. Cortes-Castro, 511 Fed. Appx. 942 (11th Cir. 2013)

After the Department of Homeland Security learned that Ernesto, Alberto and Israel Cortes Castro, were smuggling women from Mexico into the U.S. for forced prostitution, they were charged with conspiring to traffic women for prostitution by force or coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594(c) and other substantive trafficking crimes. The Defendants plead guilty to the conspiring charge in exchange for the dismissal of the other charges. The factual proffer submitted with the plea agreements stated that the Defendants agreed to establish a sex-trafficking business in the U.S. in which women would be transported from Mexico and prostituted in exchange for money. It also detailed the methods employed by the Defendants to defraud, force and coerce women into prostitution. The district court accepted the plea agreements and sentenced the Defendants to 180 months of imprisonment, an upward variation from the 108-135 month range provided by the advisory guidelines. According to the district court, the upward variation was justified by the “unusually heinous, cruel, brutal and degrading” nature of their conduct. Additionally, the court ordered the Defendants to pay $1,239,200 in restitution losses to the victims. On appeal, the Defendants challenged the upward variation and the restitution award. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court had not abused its discretion by sentencing the Defendants to terms 45 months over the advisory guidelines range because they had “enslaved, demeaned and debased immigrant women” forcing them into prostitution for several years and subjecting them to mental, physical and emotional abuse. The Court further held that the district court reasonably determined that an upward variation was required to address the “abhorrent nature” of the crimes. Finally, the Court held that the district court did not err in granting the restitution award because the victims were statutorily entitled to compensation and such award was based on factual information in the factual proffer and the presentencing report.




Court of Appeals Eleventh District

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