TRENTON - Officials say they have arrested six people in connection with an international ring operating in New Jersey that illegally brought women from Mexico into the U.S. to work as prostitutes.
Officials say the ring was part of a network of brothels in New York and surrounding states that paid people to smuggle the women, often under the guise that they would work as house cleaners or baby sitters.
State prosecutors say 38-year-old Jose Romero-Flores, of Lakewood, operated several brothels in the Ocean County town. Romero-Flores is charged with human trafficking. One was located on Brook Road in Lakewood.
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His girlfriend is accused of assisting him in the operation of the brothels, and four men are charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking. Officials say all six who were arrested are Mexican nationals who are illegally in the U.S..
Acting Attorney General John Hoffman says the arrests are the first under a new state law that carries tougher penalties.
"We have taken down a major human trafficking and prostitution ring involving brothels in Lakewood," says Hoffman. "They have endured a miserable life of high-volume prostitution. It is alleged that it was not uncommon for women who worked for Romero Flores to service as many as 100 johns in a week."
The attorney general's office would not say how many victims there are in the case, but did say they are still looking to collect information about the house in Lakewood.
"We're making it a top priority to arrest human traffickers and rescue their victims from the shadows, where these crimes occur," Hoffman says.
Anyone with information is asked to call the attorney general's human trafficking tip line.