30 Years and $10K Fine for Human Trafficking and Sex With a Minor, LIVINGSTON, March 25, 2015 - A Polk County Jury found a 27 year old Honduran national guilty of the first degree felony offense of Human Trafficking on Wednesday. Ledys Geovanny Alvaranga-Sarmiento was stopped by Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Burman on Saturday, May 3, 2014 for a traffic violation in the area of Seven Oaks. Burman determined that Sarmiento’s vehicle was also occupied by a sixteen year old Hispanic female whose only identification was a custody form issued to her five days earlier by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. Subsequent interviews with Sarmiento conducted at the Polk County Sheriff’s Department by DPS investigators and an agent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined that Sarmiento had met the juvenile through Facebook in 2012 and had paid over $9000 to have her smuggled from Honduras to Houston. Sarmiento stated that he had travelled from Pennsylvania to Houston the day before and had obtained the female from a family member. Sarmiento admitted that after leaving with the minor from Houston, he had spent the night with her at a Livingston hotel and had attempted to have sexual relations with her. A subsequent sexual assault examination of the girl along with DNA analysis confirmed Sarmiento’s admission in this regard. Following jury selection on Monday, Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon and Assistant District Attorney Leonor Shukan presented evidence supporting the Human Trafficking charge. Homeland Security Investigator Elba Medina testified that the facts of the case had all the hallmarks of a sexually exploitive human trafficking enterprise. After closing arguments on Wednesday, the Polk County jury deliberated approximately thirty minutes before returning with a guilty verdict.
During the punishment phase of the trial on Wednesday, Sarmiento testified on his own behalf and stated that he did not believe he was worthy of punishment because he loved the girl and under Honduran law he could have married the victim at age fifteen. Hon argued to the jury at punishment that Sarmiento had expressed no remorse for his actions and had in fact believed he had done nothing wrong. Hon stated that this case was a “direct assault on the immigration laws of the United States and the penal laws of the State of Texas as they related to the molestation of child victims.” The jury deliberated approximately ninety minutes before returning with a sentence of 30 years in prison for Sarmiento. The jury also assessed a $10,000 fine. According to Hon, under the current parole structure in Texas, Sarmiento will have to serve at least half of the sentence day for day and likely more.
Afterward, Hon extended his thanks to the jury and all of the law enforcement officers who had worked together in the investigation of the case. Hon stated that the crime of Human Trafficking is “one of exploitation of the most vulnerable victims” and he hoped the jury’s verdict would send a message that such willful disregard for this country’s immigration and child protection laws would not be tolerated.
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