A Bergen County man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for engaging in sex trafficking, said federal prosecutors in North Carolina.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that Mark Daniel Benavidez, 40, of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, also was ordered on Wednesday to pay $32,800 in restitution to his victims. He pleaded guilty in March to transporting a victim across state lines for prostitution.
Court documents and information presented in court showed Benavidez was arrested in connection with an undercover prostitution sting at a Cary hotel in July 2017.
“It is difficult to calculate the scope of damage caused by sexual exploitation and trafficking, which often leave victims with long-lasting trauma. Benavidez used fear, coercion, and violence to exploit and abuse his victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North Carolina and South Carolina.
An investigation showed Benavidez began prostituting one of the victims in 2016 in New Jersey and then recruited a second woman. They traveled to North Carolina where a third victim was recruited, the news release said.
Benavidez was physically violent with one of the victims, who he abused on a weekly basis.
The pimp exploited the drug addictions of the other two women, using the promise of drugs to keep them prostituting for him.
Benavidez took all the money the victims earned, and the investigation led to storage units in North Carolina and New Jersey where investigators seized more than $34,000.