HACKENSACK, NJ - Bergen County authorities announced the arrest and charging of 22 individuals in an international human trafficking and prostitution organization in and around Bergen County it was announced by Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella in a Thursday afternoon virtual press conference. 

The arrests are the result of a four-month investigation conducted by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Chief Robert Anzilotti. Charges include racketeering, human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering. The operation was a collaborative effort in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security Newark field office and several local police departments.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Squad began an investigation in November 2020, dubbed “Operation Hope in Darkness,” into a human trafficking, prostitution, and money laundering organization operating throughout Bergen County, in northern New Jersey, and in New York. The investigation revealed that the arrested individuals were trafficking women throughout Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, and Passaic Counties, and in Rockland County and Queens County, New York for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts.

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Anzilotti explained that the investigation's name was chosen because they were "helping these young victims find a new way of life." The operation found over 50 female victims who were lured from Mexico to New Jersey, under the "false promise of lawful employment" but were forced into prostitution. 

The following individuals were arrested and charged with a number of crimes:

  • BIRMANIA “NANCY” RINCON, Teaneck, NJ;
  • LUZ “AMY” RINCON, Teaneck, NJ;
  • BERNARDINO HERNANDEZ-PALACIOS, Lodi, NJ;
  • FERNANDO HERNANDEZ, Lodi, NJ;
  • LAURA GARCIA-MARAVILLA, Lodi, NJ;
  • CATHERINE ECHAVARRIA, Teaneck, NJ;
  • DANIEL MORFFI, Parlin, NJ;
  • DAVID AGUIRRE, Englewood, NJ;
  • RODRIGO SANTANDER-QUITO, West New York, NJ;
  • EDGAR VANEGAS, Bergenfield, NJ;
  • ANTHONY QUEZADA, North Bergen, NJ;
  • EDWIN MERCADO, Union City, NJ;
  • GERMAN CEBALLOS-OROZCO, Bergenfield, NJ;
  • GABRIEL TORRES, East Newark, NJ;
  • MONSERRAT GOMEZ-SANCHEZ, Elmwood Park, NJ;
  • OSCAR RINCON, Elmwood Park, NJ;
  • JORGE RINCON, Teaneck, NJ;
  • JOAN RINCON, Lodi, NJ;
  • ROBERTO MOLINA, Hackensack, NJ;
  • GIOVANNI MORALES-DEGALES, Corona, NY; and
  • ARMANDO GARCIA-OSORIO, East Elmhurst, NY, and
  • BRYAN JIMENEZ-RINCON, Lodi, NJ.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Squad began an investigation in November 2020, dubbed “Operation Hope in Darkness,” into a human trafficking, prostitution, and money laundering organization operating throughout Bergen County, in northern New Jersey, and in New York. The investigation revealed that the arrested individuals were trafficking women throughout Bergen, Hudson, Middlesex, and Passaic Counties, and in Rockland County and Queens County, New York for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts.

As a result of the investigation, Birmania Rincon, Luz Rincon, Bernardino Hernandez, and Fernando Hernandez were identified as the primary leaders of a criminal enterprise engaged in money laundering and prostitution offenses since at least 2015.

The enterprise employed drivers to facilitate the money laundering and prostitution offenses. The drivers were identified as Daniel Morffi, David Aguirre, Rodrigo Santander-Quito, Edgar Vanegas, Anthony Quezada, Edwin Mercado, German Ceballos-Orozco and Gabriel Torres.

Additional individuals were also identified as managing and/or supervising separate money laundering and prostitution organizations throughout northern New Jersey and in New York. Those individuals are Roberto Molina, Monserrat Gomez-Sanchez, Giovanni Morales-Degales and Armando Garciaosorio. 

The identified leaders of this criminal enterprise secured multiple female victims to work for them each day. They would field calls for up to 12 or more hours a day from men soliciting women for sex acts. Multiple drivers were employed by the organization to transport the female victims to various locations throughout the day for the purpose of having the women engage in commercial sex acts.

Each victim would be forced to work for 12 or more hours per day, meeting with 20 to 40 men during their shift. On average, the members of this organization charged $35 to $40 per 10 to 15 minute session for commercial sex acts, which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds each month. This money was collected by various members of the organization, including Luz Rincon, Catherne Echavarria, Fernando Hernandez and Bernardino Hernandez -Palacios..

The money was then broken down and deposited into bank accounts in an attempt to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements. Once deposited, the illicit proceeds paid mortgages and other property maintenance expenses on multiple properties owned by Birmania and Luz Rincon in both Teaneck, New Jersey and Florida. The organization kept 50% of the daily proceeds, while the victims were given the other 50%. Their money, however, was often used to satisfy a trafficking debt and/or wired to sex traffickers in the Puebla and Tenancingo regions of Mexico.

During the early morning hours of Wednesday, February 3, 2021, over 100 detectives from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office executed 19 search warrants in Bergen and Hudson Counties, and arrested 21 individuals. One individual, Birmania Rincon, is currently a fugitive from justice and is believed to be in Colombia, South America. The BCPO is working with federal counterparts to locate and extradite her to the United States.

In partnership with the United States Department of Homeland Security Victim Assistance Specialists and Covenant House, the BCPO is undertaking efforts to connect these victims with all available services to help them obtain a life free from sexual servitude and abuse.

"Human trafficking is real," said Anzilloti. "It is right here under our noses. We cannot do enough to help these victims."

Anyone who has been the victim of human trafficking is encouraged to call the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Tipline at 201-226-5532. Services and assistance are available, and we will ensure that victims are connected to resources. Prosecutor Musella states that the charges are merely accusations and that the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Musella acknowledged the following agencies and offices for their assistance in this investigation: Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Homeland Security Investigations - New Jersey Division, Englewood Police Department, Paramus Police Department, Port Authority Police Department, Fairview Police Department, Hackensack Police Department, Hillsdale Police Department, Tenafly Police Department, Saddle River Police Department, Woodcliff Lake Police Department, the New Jersey State Police and the Office of the Bergen County Clerk.