Sex trafficking
Sex trafficking Creative Commons

Albert Herrera Machado, one of the three individuals accused of being involved in a sex trafficking ring in Louisiana, is suspected of working on behalf of Tren de Aragua, a Venezuelan-born criminal organization which has rapidly expanded its influence across Latin America and emerged as a transnational threat.

23-year-old Machado faces multiple federal charges, including a felony count of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and several counts of concealing or harboring aliens for private gain.

He was arrested on April 26 at an apartment complex on South Harrell Ferry Road in Baton Rouge after a 911 call reported someone seeking help to escape traffickers. Upon arrival, deputies interviewed two women who claimed they were being coerced into prostitution to pay off a debt.

The women said that Machado arranged the sexual encounters, collected money and enforced consequences if they did not comply. Deputies discovered cash, used condoms, sex toys, cellphones with messages from potential clients, and ledgers detailing the women's earnings and remaining debts. Machado allegedly admitted he had been in Louisiana for only a week before his arrest and claimed he was given the job by a friend as a means to save money.

The two other Venezuelan citizens, Osleidy Vanesa Chourio Diaz and Josmar Jesus Zambrano-Chirinos, have also been charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and concealing or harboring aliens for private gain. The women described Zambrano as the leader of the operation, which involved over two dozen women in stash houses across Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia.

Both Diaz and Zambrano are currently in federal custody awaiting trial. The whereabouts of the two women rescued from the trafficking operation remain undisclosed.

Even though the gang started out in Tocorón prison in Venezuela, it quickly established a foothold in at least six Latin American countries, including Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. Even though there are indications that the gang's reach may extend to the United States, major law enforcement agencies across the US have so far reported no notable presence or criminal activity linked to the gang within their jurisdictions.

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