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Hillsborough County Sheriff Busts Human Smuggling and Trafficking Ring

Traffickers smuggled eight victims into the country, then forced the women into sex work to pay off their debts for being transported to the U.S.

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — Today, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced an investigation revealing a human smuggling and trafficking operation running in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. According to the investigation, Amet Maqueira De La Cal and Rosalia Leonard Garcia illegally smuggled eight Cuban women into the United States through the southern Mexican border, then forced the victims, at gunpoint, into sex trafficking to repay a huge debt.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution charged two defendants with multiple counts of human trafficking. Maqueira De La Cal and Leonard Garcia are both charged with 47 counts in total. The women rescued are receiving counseling and other assistance.

“These horrific acts of sex trafficking are among the most depraved crimes we have seen in a long time and highlight how criminals are taking advantage of Biden’s open border to advance their illicit trade,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. I applaud the swift, courageous actions of Sheriff Chronister’s deputies and ensure my Statewide Prosecutors will hold the traffickers accountable in court for what they did to these eight women.”

The traffickers withheld the women’s IDs and other documents, forced them to live in close quarters under the traffickers’ control and told them they owed $60,000 each. When forced into sex trafficking and working in adult entertainment clubs to pay off the debts, one of the victims made a call to a human trafficking helpline, which notified authorities of the criminal enterprise.

You can help stop human trafficking if you know what to look for. To learn the signs and how to report suspicious activity, visit – a resource provided by Florida’s Department of Legal Affairs.