Two people were arrested in Tampa, Florida, in connection with a human trafficking case where multiple victims between the ages of 18 and 24 were forced into prostitution.
Amet Ramon Maqueira de la Cal and Rosalia Leonard Garcia were arrested on charges of human trafficking and false imprisonment, authorities said.
The women, held in two small rooms and forced to perform sex work, were rescued by deputies at a mall in Tampa.
“They were forced to work in various adult entertainment clubs in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and never allowed to leave the home without an escort,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a press conference Monday.
The two suspects were reportedly part of a plot that charged each woman $60,000 to be transported out of Cuba, across the southern border into the United States, Fox 13 reported.
The captors threatened the victims if they refused to work as sex workers to repay their debt, deputies said.
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The agency’s human trafficking unit became aware of the operation after a tip-off from the public, Chronister said.
The unit used surveillance to determine that seven of the women would be taken by one of the suspects to International Plaza in Tampa for supplies last Thursday.
Deputies took all of the women into custody, which led them to the eighth woman and the other alleged captor.
The women received medical treatment and a safe place to stay, Chronister said.
The sheriff explained that federal authorities would decide whether the women would be deported to Cuba or allowed to remain in the United States.
A prosecutor from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office has been assigned to the case.
Moody described it as “one of the worst trafficking cases” she has seen.
The Republican Attorney General said that Joe Biden’s border policies allow people and drugs to be smuggled across the southern border.
“These horrific sex acts of sex trafficking are a direct result of the crisis we are experiencing at the border,” she said at the press conference at the sheriff’s office.