Parents of Child Victims Confront Traffickers In Federal Court 

Day 1 of 2: Sentencing Hearing for Ariel Guizar-Cuellar and Co-Defendants in Human Trafficking Ring

Robert F Peckham U.S. Courthouse, San Jose, CA

SAN JOSE, Calif – Sobs filled the US District Courthouse as family members of the victims of a human sex trafficking ring involving at least three children read their statements to the court, Tuesday. 

The mastermind of the commercial sex ring is Ariel Guizar-Cuellar. He was arrested 6-years ago at a hotel less than a mile away from Disneyland in Orange County, California.

Victims and their families received some justice as his federal sentencing hearing began. Day one of the two-day hearing gave victims and their family members the opportunity to confront Guizar-Cuellar and his three co-defendants: Aracelli Mendoza, Joceyln Contreras, and Alyssa Anthony. Contreras shares a child with Guizar-Cuellar. 

All four are convicted of operating an unlawful commercial sex ring across multiple states that sold the sexual services of adult women and at least three minor girls.

The victims were identified by their initials: “BM, JB, JV and ET.”

A microphone was placed in the aisle leading up to the judge’s podium and just behind the backs of the co-defendants so they could speak.

Josephina, the mother of one of the child victims, BM, was the first to step up to the mic. Authorities say BM took her own life in 2021.

“I’m BM’s mom,” Josephine said through tears. “I’m very sad to come here without her to court. I don’t know how these people feel about her passing away. It was her depression and anxiety that took her away. I hope you are happy.”

Rachel, the mother of child victim JB spoke next.

“When my daughter was 15, they controlled her. When my family showed me my daughter on Backpage.com, it broke my heart. He had sex with them and fed them drugs. He used them and made them think it was their idea. The girls [co-defendants] were the bait. I hope you give them the max time you can. I will continue to support my daughter and lift her up,” Rachel said.

Nicole, the aunt of JB, approached the mic.

“They took innocent children and did what they wanted for what a few bucks. They stole their childhood, and, a few of them, their lives. We almost lost her,” Nicole said of JB.

As the statements were shared, Guizar-Cuellar, 42, sat next to his attorney with his face down. At moments he cradled his head while rocking back and forth while seated, shackles on his ankles and wearing a red jumpsuit. He did not make eye contact with anyone – not the loved ones of his victims nor the other co-defendants accused and sitting there with him. 

The co-defendants, Mendoza, Anthony, and Contreras sat up in their chairs listening. Their heads turned slightly toward the microphone.

Prosecutor for the victims, Assistant United States Attorney Marissa Harris read statements of the victims who could not be there in court. She choked up while reading the letter sent from child victim JV.

“It’s sickening that you did this to impressionable girls. We wanted to be loved and accepted. We did not deserve to be exploited for financial gain. This is the first time I’ve spoken publicly. I deserve to heal. I know that it won’t be easy. I have a family that will fight for me. Some monsters don’t wear masks; they are the other young women [co-defendants]. I’m still happy and I’m grateful I will never have to see you again,” JV said in a statement read by District Attorney Harris.

Judge Beth Labson-Freeman shared that she had hoped to be able to sentence all four defendants at the same time, but due to a couple of last-minute events, she would only be able to sentence Guizar-Cuellar and Mendoza.

The attorney for Jocelyn Contreras suddenly came down with COVID-19. Due to that, her sentencing date was rescheduled for November 8th, 2022.

Defendant Alyssa Anthony asked to withdraw her guilty plea. The judge said if that is the case, she will be facing an “uphill battle” and must file a motion to withdraw by Oct 12th. If accepted, the hearing for the motion would take place on Nov 1st. If denied her sentencing date will also be Nov 8th, 2022.

The judge told Guizar-Cuellar and Mendoza that she planned to sentence them both the next day.

Judge Beth Labson-Freeman’s Court Schedule for 2-Day Sentencing Hearing

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