May 30, 2018
By Julius Whigham II - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Bartolo Mazariegos-Chay (left) Edictor Rosman Perez-Morales and Octavio Diaz-Mendez (right) were arrested on felony human trafficking charges in West Palm Beach on Friday, May 25, 2018, according to West Palm Beach police. (Photos provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)

Two men arrested Friday in West Palm Beach for alleged human trafficking previously had been deported twice, while a third was a fugitive suspected of being in the country illegally, federal immigration officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials requested that Bartolo Mazariegos-Chay, 41, Edictor Rosman Perez-Morales, 33, and Octavio Diaz-Mendez, 20, each be detained for a review of their immigration statuses following their arrests by West Palm Beach police.

Mazariegos-Clay, a Guatemalan citizen living in West Palm Beach, and Diaz-Mendez, a Mexican citizen living in Palm Springs, both previously were deported from the United States on two occasions, according to statement released Tuesday by ICE.

Perez-Morales, a citizen of Guatemela living in West Palm Beach, is an ICE fugitive suspected of being in the country illegally, the agency said.

Each man could face deportation after their court proceedings in Palm Beach County have concluded.

All face charges that include deriving proceeds from prostitution and maintaining a place of prostitution. Police said they acted as doormen, collecting money from customers at multiple prostitution houses in the city.

Perez-Morales is also facing a prostitution charge after he allegedly paid for sex with at least one of the women.

Authorities said Mazariegos-Chay also possessed and sold cocaine.

The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case and may file additional charges, a spokesman for the agency said.

According to an arrest report, the alleged victims were recruited from other countries to work as prostitutes, with threats made against their families if they refused to cooperate.

At least one female being sold for sex was a juvenile, authorities said. One woman declined to give her personal information to investigators, but told police she and others were threatened and instructed to tell police they were either relatives or girlfriends.

Police began an investigation in October after receiving a tip from a caller in the Dominican Republic.

Officers conducted surveillance of homes on the 700 block of Belvedere Road, the 3800 block of Miller Avenue and the 500 block of Independence Road, all in the south end of West Palm Beach. Investigators said the Independence Road address appeared to the residence of men overseeing the prostitution operation.

Various men were seeing entering the Belvedere Road and Miller Avenue addresses, typically staying for 15 to 20 minutes, police said.

Diaz-Mendez reportedly told police he met Mazariegos-Chay while working a landscaping job and was offered the opportunity to make “easy money” as a doorman.

Since the beginning of 2018, Palm Beach County authorities have arrested five other men for alleged human trafficking -- described by some as modern-day slavery.

Authorities describe human trafficking as the exploitation of another person for labor, domestic servitude or commercial sexual activity through the use of fraud, force or coercion.

Since 2017, when the county formed a task force dedicated to fighting human trafficking, nearly 20 men have been charged with the crime, records show.

The task force is comprised of local, state and federal agencies, including the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations. It works in close partnership with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami and the Florida Office of Statewide Prosecution.