Statement from TABC on guilty plea from Maria Botello-Morales for sex trafficking charges
BACKGROUND: A 56-year-old Houston woman faces life in prison after she pleaded guilty to multiple sex trafficking charges resulting from a joint investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA).
U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani announced the guilty plea on Jan. 30, adding that Maria Botello-Morales admitted to recruiting a minor-aged Mexican citizen to work in a bar she owned and to forcing the girl and multiple other victims into sex work on the threat of violence.
TABC canceled the liquor permit for the bar, Puerto Alegre, in 2020 following the initial investigation. Botello-Morales remains in custody awaiting sentencing. She faces up to life in prison.
The joint investigation was conducted by TABC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the Houston Police Department as part of HTRA. TABC’s investigation remains ongoing.
Statement from TABC Chairman Kevin J. Lilly:
“This case demonstrates the lengths traffickers will go to in order to recruit and abuse victims, even when those victims are barely more than children. All of us at TABC are incredibly proud of the work of our agents and partners with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, and we remain committed to finding and stopping human trafficking no matter where it’s found in Texas.”
U.S. Attorney’s Office news release: justice.gov/usao-sdtx/pr/woman-guilty-trafficking-women-cantina-backroom
TABC Public Information Officer