A Houston trafficking victim wants her trafficker to pay up.
In a motion filed Dec. 15, the victim requested restitution from Hortencia “Tencha” Medels Arguello, who allegedly forced the victim and others to work without pay in Houston-area brothels, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle. A judge is expected to sentence Arguello in January.
It’s highly unlikely the victim will be successful. A 2014 review of sex and labor trafficking cases found victims seldom received restitution from their traffickers, despite federal law requiring convicted traffickers to pay victims lost wages.
According the review, courts granted the victims compensation in only 36 percent of cases. Sex trafficking victims were least likely to receive money, and when they did, received far less than labor trafficking victims.
Researchers also found prosecutors played an important role. Courts were much more likely to grant restitution when prosecutors filed memos requesting it. When prosecutors did not get involved, victims were granted compensation in only 12 percent of cases.
In the Houston case, an attorney representing the victim filed the motion. The victim requested $500,000 in unpaid wages, lost wages and attorney fees. She was 15 years old when she met a man in Mexico who courted her and convinced her to come to the United States. When she arrived, she said, the man’s behavior changed. He told her he owed the smugglers money and that she had to work to pay off the debt. She began working in the brothels at 16 years old.