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The Rooster gets 40 years for sex trafficking

April 25, 2016 ·  By Gabrielle Banks for www.chron.com

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The kingpin of an international sex trafficking operation had a window of opportunity Monday morning to chip some time off his impending prison term. The federal judge in Houston presiding over the case of 51-year-old Gerardo “El Gallo” Salazar said he blew it.

Shackled in his orange prison jumpsuit, he spoke in a soft voice, his head bowed, apologizing to U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore and to Jesus Christ, asking the judge through a translator, “Please understand that with all due respect I am a victim too.”

Gilmore said he didn’t owe her an apology, but he did owe one to the girls he “traumatized and victimized.” He quibbled over the details of his guilty plea, saying repeatedly that he didn’t harm anyone, but if he did he asked for God’s forgiveness and the girls’ as well.

“He has learned nothing from this experience,” Gilmore said, raising her voice. “He victimized women, and he doesn’t care. He hasn’t learned a thing.” She emphasized that these were young girls who did not consent to any of the acts they were forced into.

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She sentenced Salazar to the highest possible sentence, 40 years in prison, meaning he could qualify to be free on three years’ supervised release at the age of 91. Salazar pleaded guilty to four counts of harboring immigrants for prostitution. The victims, who came from poor villages in Central Mexico, were held en masse in an apartment and transported to various brothels where each victim was forced to have sex with multiple patrons per night.

“El Gallo,” whose nickname evokes the macho dominance of a farmyard fowl, had roosters tattooed on the bodies of some of the girls he romanced and then coerced into prostitution in nightclubs and cantinas around Houston. Witnesses told federal investigators he threatened to shoot them in the spine, so they’d have to drag themselves around for the rest of their days if they tried to escape. They said he told them he would kill their family members if they spoke about it.

Salazar was extradited from Mexico in 2014, after escaping capture in a 2005 sting.

“He didn’t ask for mercy for his victims, he asked for mercy for himself,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruben Perez, who worked for years with Mexican law enforcement to facilitate Salazar’s extradition.

“He brought these girls over here in search of the American dream, that’s what his promise was,” Perez said. “Once they got here, they ran smack into the American nightmare.”

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