United States vs Araceli Mendoza

Araceli Mendoza is on trial for Conspiracy to Commit Human Sex Trafficking of minors. The federal trial started on September 10th, 2021.

What I Know:

Araceli was a 23-year-old mother of two from San Jose, California when she was arrested alongside Ariel Guizar-Cuellar, 35, in Anaheim, California for Human Trafficking of a Minor in 2016.

A family member of Araceli and I started talking via Facebook Messenger shortly after her arrest. This person wanted me to know that Araceli was a victim, not the offender.

And, that’s where this whole case gets murky.

We, as people, want to find ways to label each other as “good” or “bad.” But, I’ve found we are all a little of both.

Araceli was not convicted in the Orange County case.

Araceli was young when she got connected to Guizar-Cuellar. Their relationship started out good.

In court Wednesday, Araceli’s attorney shared the following witness accounts of how bad the relationship became:

“Jxxxxx said she saw Ariel slap the shit out of Araceli”

“Bianca said she witnessed that Araceli was the girl Ariel beat up the most.”

“He was more violent with Araceli than anyone else.”

There were four people named in the federal case regarding Guizar-Cuellar’s Human Trafficking Ring: Ariel Guizar-Cuellar, Jocelyn Contreras, Alyssa Anthony and Araceli Mendoza.

On April 7th of 2016, the defendants, Ariel Guizar-Cuellar, Jocelyn Contreras adn Alyssa Anthony were charged in a five-count indictment with Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking of Children, Sex Trafficking of Children and Sexual Exploitation of Children. The Indictment alleged that Guizar-Cuellar operated a sex trafficking venture along with three co-defendants: Jocelyn Contreras, Araceli Mendoza and Alyssa Anthony.

On May 7th, 2019, Guizar Cuellar pleaded guilty to all charges in the indictment.

On September 4th, 2019, Contreras pleaded guilty to Superseding Information charging her with Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking of Children.

On July 21, 2020, Anthony pleaded guilty to Superseding Information charging her with Consipracy to Commit Sex Trafficking of Children.

Mendoza did not plead guilty.

It’s murky.

On a personal note: I am struggling with the ethics of reporting on this case. There is a fine line between victim and perpetrator. Most perpetrators start out as someone else’s victim. When does the scale shift in the other direction? At what point? Araceli was released from custody in May of 2017. She has maintained a job and has full custody of her children. She is a survivor of trafficking. It hurts me to imagine her reading this article and feeling more victimized or exploited. Still, there is a problem with children being trafficked in the US. Many people I’ve spoken to started at age 12. It’s uncomfortable to talk about, but if we continue to not talk about it, to look past the problem, it’s going to keep on happening.

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