Family accused of running sex trafficking operation at Texas bar for over a decade

Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details about sexual assault allegations.

HOUSTON (NewsNation Now) — A Houston family is accused of coordinating a sex trafficking operation in which waitresses working at a bar were forced to perform sex acts on customers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Officials said 54-year-old Maria Botello and her children — 28-year-old Edgar Botello and 31-year-old Yudy Lucatero — along with her nephew, 23-year-old Arian Botello, coerced waitresses working at Puerto Alegre in east Houston to “engage in commercial sex acts.”

According to a criminal complaint filed on March 30, the family members had allegedly been doing this for 13 years, from 2007 to 2020.

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The complaint alleges that Maria would coordinate “dates” with clients who paid $70 for every 15 minutes with the waitresses. Her son and nephew were “the enforcers” who allegedly used weapons, threats, and intimidation to keep the women compliant.

“The investigation also revealed Lucatero and Maria Botello discussed the rules and procedures in relation to the sex trafficking,” read a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office on Thursday.

The victims allegedly included adults and at least one minor.

Authorities also identified another victim who was brought to the U.S. specifically to work at the bar when she was 17, according to the complaint. While she was there, she was allegedly forced to engage in commercial sex.

All four family members were expected to make their initial court appearances before a judge at 2 p.m. on Friday.

If convicted, the family members each face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s office says anyone who may have been victimized by suspected traffickers, or who has information about potential victims, is urged to contact the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Victims Services office at 713-494-5869 to file a report.

Spanish speakers may contact Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-347-2423.