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Ocean County Men Admit Role in Running Lakewood Brothels, Sex Trafficking

Girls saw up to 40 johns per day after being tricked into coming to the U.S. under the pretext of being promised legitimate jobs

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
A group of four Lakewood men and a Union City man admitted their role in a sex trafficking ring and operating brothels in Lakewood.

The five men, prosecutors charged, operated a network of brothels in Lakewood and New York that trafficked women from Mexico to the United States to work as prostitutes.

The women were said to have been lured to the United States after being promised jobs as house cleaners of babysitters, prosecutors said. But when they arrived in America they were entered into the sex trade and were forced to return all of their earnings to Mexico.

“This case fits a classic pattern of international sex trafficking, in which deception and coercion are used to enslave women in a horrific life of prostitution in the U.S., where they must service up to 40 clients each day,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Those charged include Jose Cruz Romero-Flores, 39,  also known as “Chato,” the owner of the Lakewood brothels; Felix Rios-Martinez, 48, of Lakewood; Raul Romero-Castillo, 31, of Lakewood; Haliro Bueno, 22, of Lakewood and Santos Lazaero Flores-Cruz, 59, of Union City.

Romero-Flores, Rios-Martinez and Romero-Castillo all pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to facilitate human trafficking, for which prosecutors will recommend a five year prison term.

Flores-Cruz and Bueno each pleaded guilty to third-degree promoting prostitution, for which prosecutors will seek a three year prison term.

Romero-Flores, authorities said, operated several Lakewood brothels, including ones on Bellinger Street and Chestnut Street.  At the time the men were arrested in July 2013, he was operating a single brothel at 1093 Brook Road in Lakewood.

The joint investigation revealed that Romero-Flores and other brothel owners in New Jersey, New York and additional surrounding states worked together as a loose network to bring women into the U.S. illegally, primarily from Mexico but also from other Latin American countries, and introduce them into a life of prostitution.

“We have worked hard not merely to raise awareness of this degrading crime, but also to arrest and prosecute those who commit it,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to pursue all leads to catch sex traffickers and put them behind bars where they belong.”
Joey Joe May 31, 2014 at 08:35 AM
SO???? what happened to the women? Were they deported? Were they jailed? Were they sent to the hospital to get checked out? Were they turned out onto the street to find their own way? While I find it despicable what was done to these women I also find it very odd that we never seem to get the whole story...
KarenMetallo June 02, 2014 at 02:07 AM
I was thinking the exact same thing. Those guys ruined the women's lives & pretty much abducted them by lying. Now how are the women supposed toget back where they were & get on with their lives?
Linny June 06, 2014 at 08:43 AM
Thats just it they cant get back what they had.. These creeps and low lifes have ruined these girls lives forever. They should all rot in hell for what they did to these girls.. its sickening to say the least

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