On September 19, 2019 Maria Antonia Zavaleta-Perez, 40, was arrested by ICE on charges that she ran a prostitution business out of her home in Goose Creek, SC. Agents found and seized approximately 100 packaged condoms and several bottles of personal lubricant gel.
Maria allegedly operated the prostitution business using undocumented female immigrants. ICE says that Maria harbored and transported undocumented females across state lines for prostitution into North Carolina.
The prostitutes come from Atlanta, Charlotte, Virginia, Florida, Maryland and New York. Profits from the clients were split 50/50 between the women and Maria.
Maria is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. ICE said the prostitutes were transported down from North Carolina by Maria or co-conspirators. Two latina prostitutes would then stay at her home for a week before being brought back to North Carolina and then switched out for two new women.
ICE says Maria would deliver a prostitute to the location of a caller, or, in some cases, would allow victims to go to her home for business. Federal agents were alerted to the situation by an informant who was not identified in official documents.
ICE says surveillance operations found that two vehicles each containing an older woman and a younger woman made short stops at various locations in a manner consistent with the prostitution business involving undocumented immigrants. Also various people would allegedly come to Maria's residence and stay for a short time before leaving.
Officials set up a sting operation where they had their informant contact Maria and initiate a prostitution deal. ICE stated that during a recorded phone call on Aug. 10, 2019 to Maria, it was inferred that she was charging $50 for a prostitute and that the business was tied up with other customers that night.
On August 27, ICE said a traffic stop was conducted in North Charleston following an improper lane change. Officials said the driver, Maria provided an international driver's license and a Mexican passport.
Two other women were in the vehicle at the time. ICE said Maria stated that she was returning from North Carolina after seeing a doctor and that the two passengers were visiting South Carolina. Officials added that the passengers had Mexican passports and would look at Maria for directions when asked questions.
A check two days later showed that there were no records for the two passengers having legal status in the United States.
Following numerous other surveillance operations, ICE agents said there was probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant for the Goose Creek home.
On September 19, a search warrant was executed just before 8 p.m. ICE stated they seized several items, including 100 packaged condoms and several bottles of personal lubricant gel.
One of the Latina prostitutes was identified as a citizen of Mexico who was in the United States illegally. Her purse contained approximately 15 condoms and a bottle of personal lubricant gel.
The woman was interviewed by federal agents, and she stated that she had been smuggled into the US from Mexico through Laredo, Texas in Feb. 2018. She said she was introduced to an unidentified man in Atlanta who was involved in driving girls around for prostitution-related activities.
She claimed the man was responsible for bringing her to South Carolina. She detailed how Maria would give her rides around the area to meet with customers, but she denied committing the sexual acts under obligation or force. The woman had been with approximately 45 clients since she arrived in Goose Creek, SC.