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In April, I wrote this story about a human trafficking ring that was operating a safe house in Escondido.

Part of the story involved two men, Luis Camacho Ventura and Mateo Alvardo, who were arrested in early April and charged with human trafficking. Human smuggling, the typical charge in immigration cases, becomes the more serious charge of human trafficking when the smuggled are held against their will and placed into indentured servitude.

The two men had been caught by the San Diego Police Department after they showed up at a Barrio Logan home demanding a ransom for an illegal immigrant they had smuggled across the border. According to police officials, the two men had called the immigrant’s wife and threatened to dismember their captive and spread him all over the city if she didn’t pay a $1,300 ransom.

Ventura and Alvardo pleaded guilty to human trafficking. Alvardo was sentenced to 300 days in jail, Ventura was sentenced to a year in jail.

Prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Gretchen Means said that’s not light sentences, considering the men had no previous criminal record.

“It’s not lenient at all,” Means said. “I think this is a new statute and we’re just starting to address the entirety of crimes that fall under the statute.”

Two other men, Jonathan Aguilar-Lopez and Juventino Rodriguez-Ismerio, who were also identified by investigators as part of the trafficking ring, have yet to plead on the state charges. If they plead guilty, they face up to five years imprisonment.

Aguilar Lopez has already pleaded guilty on a separate human trafficking charge being brought by the federal government. He faces three years imprisonment on that charge.


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