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AG Moody’s Statewide Prosecutors and HCSO Shut Down Sex Trafficking Ring, Arresting Two Traffickers and Rescuing Eight Women

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File - Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody (J Willie David, III / Florida National News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution is charging two defendants with multiple counts of human trafficking. An investigation by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office revealed a human smuggling and trafficking operation running in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties by Amet Maqueira De La Cal and Rosalia Leonard Garcia. Maqueira De La Cal smuggled in eight women into the United States, forcing the victims into sex trafficking to repay a huge debt under threat of violence.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “These horrific acts of sex trafficking are among the most depraved crimes we have seen in a long time and highlight how criminals are taking advantage of Biden’s open border to advance their illicit trade. I applaud the swift, courageous actions of Sheriff Chronister’s deputies and ensure my Statewide Prosecutors will hold the traffickers accountable in court for what they did to these eight women.”

According to the investigation, Maqueira De La Cal smuggled each of the eight victims into the country. The investigation uncovered that Maqueira De La Cal, through threats of violence, then forced the women into sex trafficking and working in adult entertainment clubs to pay off the debts incurred through the transport into the U.S. The traffickers told the victims they owed $60,000 each, withheld the women’s IDs and other documents, and forced the victims to live in close quarters under the traffickers’ control. One of the victims made a call to a human trafficking helpline, which notified authorities of the operation.

Maqueira De La Cal and Leonard Garcia are both charged with 47 counts in total—including human trafficking charges. The women rescued through this operation are receiving counseling and other resources.

Attorney General Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.

Anyone who knows what to look for can help stop human trafficking. To learn the signs and how to report suspicious activity, visit YouCanStopHT.com.

Central Florida News

State Senator Linda Stewart Filed Bill To Fight Human Traffickers

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Tallahassee, FL – Senator Linda Stewart (D – Orlando) has begun crafting a bill to address the human trafficking epidemic seen across the State of Florida. The bill looks to include expanded requirements for the posting of human trafficking awareness signs, increase hours of training on trafficking for law enforcement, and create a human trafficking data repository allowing anonymous tips.

In recent years, it was revealed that the state’s hotels and motels had been favored by human traffickers to conduct their illegal trade, and Central Florida had an exceedingly high amount of human trafficking in hotels, ranking in at the third largest region for trafficking in the state.

The bill will additionally work on adjusting language passed last session by Senator Stewart in her Tenant Safety bill, also known as Miya’s law. The bill prohibited hourly rentals at certain lodging establishments in an effort to curb exploitation.

“I’ve always advocated for human trafficking reform, and we can’t wait any longer with people’s lives at stake,” said Stewart. “I’m hoping that my legislation will see bipartisan support so we can work to put an end to trafficking across the state.”

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Central Florida News

VIDEO: Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Celebrates 2nd Annual India Republic Day in Kissimmee

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Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez (center, orange scarf) hosted the 2023 India Republic Day at the Osceola County Sheriff's Complex in Kissimmee Saturday, January 21, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez (center, orange scarf) hosted the 2023 India Republic Day at the Osceola County Sheriff's Complex in Kissimmee Saturday, January 21, 2023. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (FNN) – Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez hosted the 2023 India Republic Day in Kissimmee for the second year in a row, in partnership with the Indian American Chamber of Commerce and other community partners. The festival celebrated the ratification of India’s constitution and Indian culture in the Central Florida community.

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Central Florida News

FAMU Law Fellows and Partners Provide Support to Eatonville Families with Heirs’ Property Issues

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ORLANDO, Fla –Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law students Madison Flanagan, Alec Rose, and Sofie Barrett have been selected as Heirs’ Property Protection Legal Fellows working with Helping Everyone Live Prosperously (H.E.L.P.) Community Development Corporation and Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida to provide free legal services to families in Eatonville that are experiencing heirs’ property issues.

“I have always been committed to giving back to my community,” said third-year FAMU Law student Flanagan. The Allamuchy, New Jersey native continued, “I hope that by working on the Heirs’ Property Project alongside such dedicated and hardworking people from H.E.L.P. CDC and Community Legal Services, who have a true passion for giving back to the community, I will be able to make a positive and meaningful impact on those living in Eatonville.

Fellows provide legal assistance in real estate, probate, title, and estate planning. “Fellows are also engaged in property mapping, tax, and other public records research, will prepare community outreach and informational materials, attend community meetings and participate in educational presentations,” said FAMU Law Clinic Director Mark Dorosin.

H.E.L.P. Community Development Corporation is a HUD-approved, Central Florida-based, comprehensive housing counseling agency that provides quality financial education and counseling to improve the lives and financial stability of individuals and families.

“We are so excited to be working with our FAMU Law fellows to help Eatonville,” said Deputy Executive Director Nicole Oriol, H.E.L.P. “Their enthusiasm and commitment to working on this project is inspirational. Each of them contributes knowledge and skills that are important for our program’s success.

Families with heirs’ property in the Town of Eatonville may contact H.E.L.P. CDC at (407) 628-4832 ext. 188700.

Community Legal Services is the primary provider of no-cost legal services to the most vulnerable in Central Florida, helping them to protect their families, health, and livelihoods. For legal assistance, call the CLS Helpline at 1-800-405-1417.

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