A woman pleads guilty to sex trafficking other women and a minor outside the Puerto Alegre Cantina in East Houston.
Houston, Texas (KTRK) – A 56-year-old woman pleaded guilty to sex trafficking victims, including a minor, outside her cantina.
Maria Botelho Morales, who authorities said was living illegally in Houston, admitted to sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion and conspiracy to do so in addition to sex trafficking of a minor.
ABC13 reported on Botello-Morales in 2021, when allegations surfaced that she was running a sex trafficking operation with her family.
The victims included two adults and at least one minor.
The crimes date back to 2007, when Botello-Morales recruited a girl from Mexico. Authorities said the woman paid the minor into commercial sex and then took money from the buyers.
From 2015 to 2020, Botello-Morales ran Puerto Alegre, a cantina in East Houston where she forced several women to have commercial sex in purpose-built bathrooms.
The victims said they started out at the bar as waitresses, but things quickly changed when Botelho Morales told them they had to have commercial sex.
If the victims refused, the woman and others threatened them with violence.
Some of the victims said they even witnessed violence and weapons in the bar and in the back area where the sex crimes would be committed.
Victims told investigators how they were given a condom wrapped in a paper towel, spent no more than 15 minutes in a back room with clients, and had to pay nearly $70. On their way out, they had to hand the money over to the person guarding the room. According to a complaint filed March 30, 2021, Botello-Morales’ son and nephew were so-called “enforcers” who used weapons, threats, and intimidation to keep the women in compliance.
Another victim described that when she refused to return to work, Botelho Morales sent someone to physically assault her.
Botelho Morales will be sentenced in June. You face life imprisonment.
You will remain in custody until the hearing.
The above video is from an earlier ABC13 report on Maria Botello-Morales, where her family was also accused in the sex trafficking operation.
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