Nightmare allegations: Feds charge Mission mother, son with decades of child sex trafficking

A mother and son have been indicted on federal child sex trafficking charges over allegations they brought women and girls from the Mexican states of Durango and Coahuila to a Mission bar where they were sold for sex.

Rita Martinez is charged with 11 counts of sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion while her son Genaro Fuentes is facing six counts of the same charge.

Rita Martinez and Genaro Fuentes

The indictment alleges the trafficking happened from 1996 to 2019 and describes how Fuentes would sexually assault newly arrived women and girls to “try them,” and how the girls and women faced beatings from Martinez.

“Martinez would tell the women and girls, and their families, that she would bring them to the United States to work at her restaurant or to clean houses,” the indictment stated. “Martinez would then arrange and pay for ‘coyotes’ to bring the women and girls into the United States.”

When they arrived, Martinez told them they owed her a smuggling debt and needed to work it off in her bar, which was located at 7700 W. Mile 7 Road and called Rita’s Sport’s Bar, also known as Perez Lounge or Rita’s Lounge.

The now-abandoned bar is across the street from Juarez-Lincoln High School.

The indictment says Martinez told the women and girls they would make money by drinking beers with clients and that they would collect tokens for each beer sold to a client, which would be how they paid down their smuggling debts.

“After some days or weeks after each woman or girl began working at Martinez’s bar, Martinez would arrange for clients to take the woman or girl out of the bar to have commercial sex,” the indictment stated.

An abandoned trailer is seen behind Rita’s Sports Bar on Wednesday in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Federal prosecutors allege the clients, who included a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, would arrange for dates and negotiate the terms for particular sex acts with Martinez.

If she was absent, they would negotiate with Fuentes, according to the indictment.

“Clients would take the women and girls to nearby motels, Martinez’s home, trailers behind the bar, or their personal vehicles, to engage in commercial sex,” the indictment stated.

If a girl resisted, the client would complain to Martinez who told them they needed to comply in order to pay their debt, according to the indictment.

To coerce the girls and women, federal prosecutors say Martinez used a variety of means.

“She saddled the victims with impossibly high debts, threatened to report them to immigration or the police, and warned them about the harm that might come to their families in Mexico,” the indictment states. “She insulted and humiliated the women and girls. She physically assaulted them, including slapping, hitting, and dragging them by their hair, if they disobeyed her.”

Fuentes is accused of helping his mother with the sex trafficking operation by driving the women and girls to and from motels, by selling condoms to the women and girls and by operating the bar if his mother wasn’t there.

“In his mother’s absence, Fuentes pressured the women and girls to engage in commercial sex with clients. Fuentes witnessed his mother assault the women and girls under her control, sometimes encouraging her abuse, and sometimes intervening to stop her,” the indictment stated. “Fuentes would sexually assault women and girls who were newly arrived at his mother’s home, telling them that he had a right to try them.”

If a woman or girl had a small child, federal prosecutors allege Martinez would persuade them to let her send the small child to associates or family members either in the United States or Mexico to “babysit” the child while their mother worked at the bar.

“Martinez would limit the woman or girl’s access to her child, telling her that she had to work more in order to see the child, and earn the money to clothe and feed it,” the indictment stated. “With the assistance of others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, Martinez took one such child from his mother, placed him with Martinez’s family in Mexico, and refused to return him.”

The indictment lists 10 victims, who are not identified.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission initially led the investigation into the bar, leading to Martinez and Fuentes’ arrests on state charges in 2019.

Rita’s Sports Bar is seen on Wednesday in Mission. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

The TABC previously noted that the agency believes there are multiple unaccounted victims.

Both mother and son had been indicted on the state charges.

However, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. said Wednesday that state prosecutors will not be pursuing the charges because of the federal indictment.

The indictment was issued on Feb. 23 but remained sealed until Tuesday following Martinez’s arrest.

She had been in the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center and was picked up Tuesday by the U.S. Marshals and transferred to federal custody.

Fuentes had been free on a $75,000 bond since January 2020 until his arrest on Feb. 25 in Peñitas, according to newspaper archives.

During a court appearance related to the bond, Fuentes was warned to stay away from the alleged victims and state prosecutors revealed that Martinez’s family members had been approaching and threatening alleged victims in the case.

Martinez made a first appearance in federal court Wednesday and is scheduled for a detention hearing next week while her son, Fuentes, has not yet made a first appearance because he was placed in quarantine after his arrest.

The charges they face carry a minimum of 15 years in prison if the victim was under the age of 14 and a minimum of 10 years if the victim was aged 14 to 17 and carries a maximum of life, according to the United States Department of Justice.