Report: U.S. Uncovers Sex Trafficking Ring Linked to Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua

Peruvian police carry out the transfer of one of the members of the Tren de Aragua crimina

U.S. law enforcement authorities in Louisiana allegedly dismantled a sex trafficking network led by three Venezuelan nationals, CNN en Español reported Wednesday — one of which is allegedly a member of the Tren de Aragua transnational criminal organization.

According to alleged testimonies from one of the victims, the sex trafficking ring arranged for the victims to be smuggled into the United States and taught them how to request asylum to U.S. authorities. The victims would then allegedly be forced into prostitution to pay for the “debt” accrued from their smuggling into U.S. territory.

The Tren de Aragua is a transnational criminal organization that started as a local trade union gang in the eponymous Venezuelan state of Aragua in 2012. Over the past decade, the gang has dramatically evolved into a full-fledged crime syndicate with an active presence in several Latin American countries and the United States. The gang has been linked to a wide array of criminal activities ranging from homicide, theft, extortion, contraband, and kidnapping to drug, human, and arms trafficking.

The criminal organization is largely believed to have deep ties with Venezuela’s socialist regime, which allegedly allowed the gang to expand into its current transnational state. The regime has repeatedly insisted that Tren de Aragua “does not exist” and that it is part of a purported international campaign to discredit the image of the Venezuelan government.

According to court documents CNN en Español claimed to obtain from the Middle District Court of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, the sex trafficking ring was led by a man identified as Josmar Jesús Zambrano-Chirinos, an alleged member of the Venezuelan gang.

In addition to Zambrano-Chirinos, Louisiana authorities reportedly arrested Venezuelan nationals Allbert Herrera Machado and Osleidy Vanesa Chourio Díaz. All three individuals were reportedly charged with forced sex trafficking, fraud and coercion.

The news network claimed that American authorities believe the sex trafficking network was operating in Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida.

CNN stated that, according to the affidavit of the agent in charge of the investigation, the Border Patrol Intelligence Unit in El Paso, Texas, had contacted the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Investigations in Baton Rouge on April 17 to alert them to an alleged sex trafficking case.

One of the victims, whose name was withheld and is only identified as “Victim 1,” reported that she was under the control of Zambrano-Chirinos, and identified the man as the leader of the sex trafficking ring run by the Tren de Aragua in the United States.

The victim stated in her alleged testimony that Zambrano-Chirinos paid to smuggle her into the United States through El Paso and then “collected the debt” through the victim’s sexual exploitation. The victim allegedly claimed that, according to her estimates, there are at least 30 victims of the trafficking ring in U.S. territory.

CNN reported that, according to the documents reviewed, the investigating agents communicated with the victim through WhatsApp, where she said she feared the Tren de Aragua would kill or injure her children if she did not obey its members. The victim reportedly claimed that she had been informed that Tren de Aragua killed her mother around April 29 and that the victim’s aunt had supposedly confirmed the death. The victim also stated to U.S. authorities in her account that Tren de Aragua labeled her as “Josmar’s daughter,” in reference to Zambrano-Chirinos, a title that, according to Louisiana special agents, indicates that the woman “belongs to him.”

CNN’s report claimed that Baton Rouge police received a 911 call from a woman on April 26 claiming that she was being forced to have sex for money. The call prompted the police officers to raid an apartment in Baton Rouge, where authorities reportedly found sex toys, more than $1,000 in cash, and a ledger in which the alleged debts of the victims were kept.

According to the affidavit of the operation reviewed by CNN, a Venezuelan national identified as Allbert Herrera Machado was also arrested on that day. Machado, who claimed that he had recently arrived to Baton Rouge, reportedly said that his “job” was to find clients and arrange sexual encounters for the two victims through messaging and to make sure to “hide” one of the women when the other was “busy” so that it would not be evident that there were more people in the apartment.

Machado is reportedly set to appear at the Middle District Court of Louisiana in Baton Rouge on Thursday.

CNN reported that U.S. Homeland Security agents believe there are other stash houses throughout the eastern United States based on evidence obtained through the arrest of the Venezuelan men.

The Chilean news channel Meganoticias reported in late April that one of Tren de Aragua’s sex trafficking cells in that country had been able to infiltrate Chile’s national police and received direct information and collaboration from two members of the Chilean Investigative Police.

The Tren de Aragua sex trafficking cell in Chile was dismantled at the end of a lengthy investigation that began in late 2022 following the arrest of a 17-year-old Venezuelan girl, who denounced being subjected to sexual exploitation by the Tren de Aragua cell. 

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it would begin including Tren de Aragua in its gang-affiliation apprehension reports.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.