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Norcross man pleads guilty to sex trafficking

ATLANTA - A Norcross man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal district court to sex trafficking by force and coercion.

Prosecutors said Francisco Cortes-Meza, 25, and several co-defendants brought 10 women from Mexico - including several minors - to the area to serve as prostitutes against their will.

According to U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Patrick Crosby, during winter 2007, Cortes-Meza began a relationship with a 22-year-old woman in Mexico and convinced her to come to the United States, where he said she could work in a restaurant. After smuggling the woman into the country, prosecutors said Cortes-Meza told the woman she was going to engage in prostitution and that she would give him the money she was given. Cortes-Meza controlled the woman's life, authorities said, and did not allow her to leave the home without permission. When the woman said she did not want to be a prostitute, she was beaten.

United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said human trafficking violates basic human rights and will not be tolerated.

"The victimization of the young women in this case was unfortunately made easier by their illegal status, unfamiliarity with U.S. laws and fear of law enforcement instilled in them by the traffickers," Nahmias said. "Federal laws protect all victims of such heinous crimes, whether or not they are United States citizens. No victim should fear coming forward to report illegal activity and criminal abuse."

Cortes-Meza's brother, Raul Cortes-Meza, 21, is awaiting trial on similar charges, as are family members Juan Cortes-Meza, 31, and Amador Cortes-Meza, 34. Raul, Juan and Amador are specifically charged with trafficking minors, and Juan, Amador and Francisco also face charges of smuggling aliens into the country. A Uraguay man living in Cartersville, 69-year-old Edison Wagner Rosa Tort, was also indicted. Crosby said a sixth man was is also charged "in a series of indictments."

No date has been set for sentencing. Francisco Cortes-Meza faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years behind bars.