Texas Man Charged With Child Trafficking After 15-Year-Old Girl Forced to Work off Smuggling Debt

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
September 12, 2019 Updated: September 12, 2019

Authorities have arrested a Texas man on suspicion of forcing a 15-year-old Guatemalan girl to work at a restaurant to pay off a $10,000 debt for her being smuggled into the United States.

The suspect, identified as 36-year-old Cesar Valdez-Perez, faces charges of child trafficking and forging government documents, Fort Worth’s KXAS-TV reported.

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office was cited by Fox as saying the teenage girl was rescued last week while working the night shift at a fast-food restaurant in Southlake, near Fort Worth.

She confided in a friend, who alerted the police. “This young lady has been traumatized,” Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn told KXAS-TV.

Her dramatic situation remained undetected by co-workers, according to The Dallas Morning News, since her documents were well-forged and restaurant staff believed she was a U.S. citizen.

Valdez-Perez, who reportedly pretended to be her father, was also said to have controlled her movements by dropping her off at the restaurant and then picking her up after her shift was done.

Members of Tarrant County’s Human Trafficking Unit and the Southlake Police Department were involved in the teen’s rescue, according to CBS DFW.

“We’re not going to tolerate people doing this to children in Tarrant County and we’re going to go after them with the gust of a hound dog when we do,” Sheriff Waybourn said, KXAS-TV reported.

The suspect has been transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities.

Missing Children

There were 424,066 missing children reported in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2018, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Under federal law, when a child is reported missing to law enforcement they must be entered into the database. In 2017, there were 464,324 entries.

Reve Walsh and John Walsh speak in Washington on May 18, 2011. (Kris Connor/Getty Images)

“This number represents reports of missing children. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total,” the center notes on its website.

“Unfortunately, since many children are never reported missing, there is no reliable way to determine the total number of children who are actually missing in the U.S.,” NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) added.

In 2018, the center said it assisted officers and families with the cases of more than 25,000 missing children. In those cases, 92 percent were endangered runaways, and 4 percent were family abductions.

The center said that it participates in the Amber Alert Program, which is a voluntary partnership between numerous entities including broadcasters, transportation agencies, and law enforcement agencies. The Amber Alert Program issues urgent bulletins in the most serious child abduction cases.

According to the NCMEC, to date, 941 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the Amber Alert Program.

The center notes that of the more than 23,500 runaways reported in 2018, about one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

Facts About Crime in the United States

Violent crime in the United States has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, according to both the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (pdf).

The rate of violent crimes fell by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the FBI’s UCR, which only reflects crimes reported to the police.

The violent crime rate dropped by 74 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the BJS’s NCVS, which takes into account both crimes that have been reported to the police and those that have not.

The FBI recently released preliminary data for 2018. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January to June 2018, violent crime rates in the United States dropped by 4.3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.

While the overall rate of violent crime has seen a steady downward drop since its peak in the 1990s, there have been several upticks that bucked the trend.

Between 2014 and 2016, the murder rate increased by more than 20 percent, to 5.4 per 100,000 residents, from 4.4, according to an Epoch Times analysis of FBI data. The last two-year period that the rate soared so quickly was between 1966 and 1968.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'