Man and Woman Plead Guilty to Human Trafficking Charges in Lake Worth Beach
In a shocking turn of events, a man and a woman have pleaded guilty to charges of human trafficking involving two juveniles at a Lake Worth Beach motel. Ricardo Tobon Flores and Maria Barrios Calero, both aged 44, entered their guilty pleas to two counts of sex trafficking in separate hearings held in January. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Calero admitted that she conspired with Flores to have sex with the minor girls in exchange for payment.
The guilty pleas were part of plea agreements reached by Flores and Calero. Flores is scheduled to be sentenced on March 14, while Calero’s sentencing is set for April 2. Both defendants face the possibility of life in prison, lifetime supervised release, and restitution payments to their victims.
Human trafficking is a serious crime that involves the use of fraud, force, or coercion to exploit individuals for sex, labor, or domestic servitude. It is a problem that has long plagued the hotel and motel industry in Florida, a key component of the state’s tourism economy.
Efforts to combat human trafficking have been ongoing in Palm Beach County since January 2017. Led by State Attorney Dave Aronberg and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, a task force has been dedicated to investigating and raising awareness about this heinous crime. In a joint effort to further combat human trafficking, Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County and the Place of Hope victim advocate center recently announced a partnership to offer rewards for information leading to arrests or recoveries in human trafficking cases.
The arrests of Calero and Flores came after a motel worker reported suspicious activity. Deputies allege that Flores paid the girls $200 each for sexual favors, while Calero facilitated the arrangement. The ages of the girls were not disclosed, but it was confirmed that they were both under 18 years old.
During the investigation, one of the girls revealed that Calero engaged in acts of prostitution and provided her with advice on how to interact with men. The girl expressed fear of being deported to her country of birth, Honduras.
While Flores claimed that he had no intention of engaging in sexual contact with the girls, he admitted to renting the motel room at Calero’s request so that they would have a place to sleep. He stated that the money he gave the girls was intended for food.
This case highlights the importance of continued efforts to combat human trafficking and protect the most vulnerable members of our society. The guilty pleas of Flores and Calero serve as a reminder that those who engage in such despicable acts will be held accountable for their actions.
If you have any information regarding human trafficking activities, please contact the authorities immediately. Together, we can put an end to this horrific crime and ensure a safer future for all.