OCKVILLE, MD (ABC7) — Three weeks after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared war on human trafficking, two men accused of taking part in the illegal sex trade, were released from jail despite immigration, flight risk and public safety concerns.
The case highlights the frustrations shared by multiple law enforcement sources working to eradicate pimps and madams, but finding themselves at the mercy of the judicial system that can often have a more lenient worldview.
The Brothel Along Garland Avenue:
In August 2018, the Montgomery County Police Department’s gang unit conducted an undercover sting at an apartment building along Garland Avenue in Silver Spring, near Rolling Terrace Elementary School. The officers witnessed various men come and go from the building.
Police stopped a number of suspected “johns” as they left the area. All admitted to paying for sex with an unknown woman inside. One man confessed to shelling out $30 for a 20-minute appointment. Another man explained he knocked on the apartment door, was let in by a short, heavyset man, paid that individual $35 and was then allowed into the bedroom.
The following day, police entered the first-floor apartment with a search warrant. Inside they found a man, woman, condoms, lubricants, wipes, lingerie, ledgers, $1,000 in cash and a small bag of cocaine.
The 39-year-old woman — who ABC7 is not identifying — told investigators that she had traveled from New York City to Silver Spring to work as a prostitute. She further claimed to have provided sexual services to 63 clients in less than three days.
In a separate interview room, Roberto Diaz-Mejia, 38, explained he had been living in the apartment for approximately two months.
“Diaz-Mejia is not on the lease, but is living there as part of an arrangement where he collects the money from clients when they come to have sexual intercourse with prostitutes,” police wrote in court documents obtained by ABC7. “He also cooks and provides security for the prostitutes as necessary.”
Diaz-Mejia freely stated that a man by the name of Herlan Javie Rosales-Velasquez, 34, would come to the apartment every two days to collect money. Rosales-Velasquez reportedly paid Diaz-Mejia around $260 a week for his various household services.
“Rosales-Velasquez brings in news girls and takes out the old girls,” police further noted in the same criminal affidavit.
Unjust Clemency By The Court?
In court a few days later, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office told District Court Judge Karen Ferretti it had a list of concerns about Diaz-Mejia’s being released from jail on any sort of bond.
“There’s no form of employment aside from the illegal form of employment described in the charging document,” the prosecutor opined. “And I do have concerns about potential for flight risk and danger to the community.”
In its rebuttal, the public defender’s office explained Diaz-Mejia is a native of the Dominican Republic, moved to the U.S. in 1996 and currently holds a resident card. It went on to explain Diaz-Mejia has an eighth-grade education and recently suffered a “serious accident” that impacted his employability.
After listening to both sides, Judge Ferretti granted Diaz-Mejia a $10,000 unsecured personal bond, which allowed the 38-year-old to walk out of jail without putting down any money. Ferretti declined comment for this story, citing Maryland judiciary policies.
In a separate court proceeding, the state’s attorney’s office told Montgomery County District Court Commissioner A. Onwuzuruike, it did not think it was appropriate to grant Rosales-Velasquez an affordable bond.
“Mr. Rosales-Velasquez is a danger to the safety and welfare of the woman he is alleged to have been exploiting, as well as a danger to the community,” the prosecutor argued. “Furthermore he is facing up to 30 years of incarceration, and up to $20,000 in fines if convicted. So the state thinks that presents an incentive for flight.”
Yet, Commissioner Onwuzuruike stated that because Rosales-Velasquez was gainfully employed and had no apparent criminal record, she was willing to grant the undocumented immigrant a bond that required he post $800 for release. He was out of jail hours later.