Mexican woman says she was smuggled to N. Charleston, held captive

November 24, 2010 

A young Mexican woman found wandering in a North Charleston subdivision told police she had been smuggled into this country and held against her will in a nearby home, by captors who abused her and planned on forcing her to become a sex worker.

A North Charleston woman has been charged with human trafficking in the case, and two men are being sought by police.

Bail was set at $500,000 Wednesday for Rubi Bertaud-Cabrera, 27, of Ginger Lane, who was arrested Tuesday night after the young Mexican woman escaped from her alleged abductors and was walking around the Pepperhill subdivision about 7 p.m., according to a police incident report.

A woman in the neighborhood saw the victim and called police, said Spencer Pryor, police public information officer.

"She looked like a child and she looked confused,' said the caller, a Smoketree Court resident, who asked that her name be withheld. "I didn't stick around to hear what was wrong with her. I just called police and left."

Using a Spanish-speaking officer as an interpreter, the victim led police to a house on Ginger Lane, where she said she had been held against her will for three weeks.

According to the arrest warrant for Bertaud-Cabrera, the victim was enticed to leave her home in Mexico and brought to the house on Ginger Lane with the understanding she would work as a housekeeper. Once she got there, the victim learned "she was going to be forced into the illicit sex industry for financial gain," the warrant said.

The victim refused to cooperate and wanted to leave, but Bertaud-Cabrera and two male co-defendants prevented the victim from leaving, the warrant said. Bertaud-Cabrera used intimidation and physical force to keep the victim in the house, the warrant said.

The victim was sexually assaulted on two occasions by one of the men, the warrant said.

According to the police report, Bertaud-Cabrera told police the two men and two other women had fled from the house 15 minutes before police arrived. Her two children, a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, were turned over to the state Department of Social Services, Pryor said.

Bertaud-Cabrera appeared before Magistrate Alvin Bligen Wednesday night. Through an interpreter, she said she has been living in the U.S. for more than four years. She gave the house on Ginger Lane as her address.

A North Charleston police officer said police considered Bertaud-Cabrera a flight risk because she could go back to Mexico.

Bligen set bail at $500,000. If she is released on bail, she is to refrain from contacting the victim and will be on house arrest, Bligen said.

Pryor said agents from the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement were also working on the case. He did not know where the victim was staying. He said she was not arrested.

The two male co-defendants were still at large late Wednesday, Pryor said.

Efrain Pacheco-Martinez is described as an Hispanic man, 30-40 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 200 pounds.

The other man, Marcos Antonio Pacheco-Martinez, is described as an Hispanic man, 25-35 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 160 pounds.

Anyone with information about their whereabouts should call North Charleston police at 554-5700 or Crime Stoppers at 554-1111.

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