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The owner of a Mission cantina admitted on Friday to forcing a 16-year-old girl to engage in commercial sex with her patrons, according to the United States Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas.
The USAO said in a news release that 65-year-old Rita Martinez, the owner of Rita’s Sports Bar located at 7700 W. Mile 7 Road in Mission, influenced the underage victim to engage in commercial sex work with bar patrons and pleaded guilty to sex trafficking.
“Using her cantina as a front, Rita Martinez forced a young migrant girl into sexual acts with Rita’s male patrons,” U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said in the release. “No one should have to endure that kind of treatment. Sometimes it takes time, but we will not give up. We will make sure people like Martinez answer for violating the laws of the United States by preying on the weak and vulnerable members of our society.”
Martinez acknowledged that from spring 2005 to fall 2006, the 16-year-old Mexican girl lived in Martinez’s home and worked at her bar. This is where Martinez would arrange for her male patrons to have sex with the teen.
The patrons would pay Martinez who kept the money and applied it to the cost of the victim’s fee for the transportation from Mexico into the U.S.
There were 10 victims listed who were not identified in the indictment.
“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 stated. “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.”
On Jan. 26, 41-year-old Genaro Fuentes, Martinez’s son, pleaded guilty and admitted to his role working at the bar and helping facilitate the commercial sex operation.
He admitted to sex trafficking a minor between August 2001 and 2005 and added that he would sexually assault the girl.
“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,” the indictment stated.
Part of his duties at the bar would included shuttling the women and girls from his mother’s home or to nearby hotels where they would perform sex work.
According to prosecutors, the females were forced to perform sex work in the trailers behind the bar or in clients’ vehicles.
“Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane will impose sentencing for Martinez and Fuentes Sept. 7 and July 6, respectively,” the release stated. “Martinez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison, while Fuentes could receive a 20-year maximum sentence.”
The duo will remain in custody pending their sentences.