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Utah massage parlor owner sent to prison for human trafficking

Published July 15, 2013 5:01 pm

Courts • 17-year-old girl was coerced into being a prostitute.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Salt Lake City massage parlor owner has been sentenced to prison for coercing a 17-year-old girl into being a prostitute.

Luis Daniel Arano-Hernandez, 30, was originally charged with 10 felony counts, mostly charges of exploitation of a prostitute and human trafficking. In May, he accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to one charge of human trafficking, a first-degree felony.

Third District Judge Judith Atherton sentenced Arano-Hernandez to five years to life in prison on Friday, giving him credit for the 225 days he had served in the Salt Lake County jail.

Arano-Hernandez, along with three other men and one women, were arrested and charged last November by the SECURE Strike Force after an eight-month investigation into sex trafficking.

Court filings allege that between April and November 2012, Arano-Hernandez and the other four defendants operated a prostitution service out of two Salt Lake area massage parlors known as "Rico Reiki."

The women engaged in providing prostitution services are believed to have been undocumented immigrants and/or under the age of 18, according to court documents.

In a probable cause statement filed with the court, a female identified as "M.R." said she was recruited into prostitution by Arano-Hernandez at age 17. She told an investigator she was forced to sign a contract and that Arano-Hernandez threatened to harm the teen's family and have her deported if she failed to participate in prostitution.

The SECURE Strike Force started in October 2009 to target major crimes by and against undocumented residents. The Utah District Attorney's Office reported that during the past two years, the strike force has investigated 338 cases and arrested 120 people for crimes including human trafficking, identity theft, illegal drugs, guns and other violent crimes.

Arano-Hernandez's four codefendants — Juan Manuel Arano, 33; David Ramirez-Jimenez, 25; Manuel Zapata, 43; and Vanessa Melendres, 22 — entered into cooperation agreements against Arano-Hernandez.

Arano, Ramirez-Jimenez and Zapata pleaded guilty to third-degree felony unlawful conduct, while Melendres entered into an agreement with prosecutors that will result in the dismissal of her charges — two counts of exploitation of a prostitute and one count of pattern of unlawful activity — if she commits no other crimes in two years and provides the Utah Attorney General's Office proof that she paid her state and federal taxes during the two-year period.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller