HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Prosecutors say this is one of those cases that illustrate how Houston has become a major hub for human trafficking. Most people believe victims of human trafficking are from other countries, but this human trafficking victim is a 14-year-old girl from the Houston area.
"Police were investigating a runaway,” said Harris County assistant district attorney Joanne Musick. That teen was turned into a sex slave by 19-year-old Denise Coronado, according to prosecutors. Coronado did not appear before a judge on Friday during her probable cause hearing due to a medical problem, but the judge continued the hearing without her present.
During the hearing, evidence was presented that 14-year-old girl told law enforcement officers that she was walking down a street when she was pulled into a van. The girl said she was then driven to a wooded area where she was kept against her will for five days. She was then taken to a Houston motel where she was introduced to Coronado.
A prosecutor told the judge that Coronado and another male co-defendant forced the teen girl into prostituting herself for money. Coronado threatened the girl, burned her with a cigarette, and forced her to engage in prostitution. Coronado took photographs of the girl and published them on the Backpage.com website.
During a one-week period in March, the girl was forced to have sex with more than twenty men. She was later able to escape.
"The 14-year-old runaway was taken from the streets by another person and then delivered to a home where Coronado was," said Musick. "Coronado took photographs posted on Backpage and then had sex dates set up where men would come and negotiate sex. They would pay Coronado and have sex with the child.”
The Houston Police Department vice division's Human Trafficking Unit is continuing its investigation into the case and are making an effort to find Coronado’s accomplice. Officers are trying to determine if any other children were forced into prostitution by Coronado.
Coronado was charged on Friday with compelling prostitution and if she is convicted, the felony carries a penalty of up to 20 years in state prison. She is scheduled to appear in 176th District Court on Monday to be arraigned.
For anyone with concerns regarding about human trafficking, please consult the following resources provided by the Houston Area Council on Human Trafficking: