How sex trafficking happens in Nebraska, from the perspective of a convicted trafficker. An Omaha man explains how he recruited and sold women and girls. It’s part of NET’s “Sold for Sex” reporting project, which includes a new documentary on NET Television. Please note this story deals with subject matter of an adult nature.
Watch the new NET News documentary "Sold for Sex: Trafficking in Nebraska" Saturday, Jan. 7 at 10:30 p.m. CT on NET Television, or online at netNebraska.org/soldforsex.
More information about Heredia's arrest and the trafficking operation he was involved in:
“I recruited the women. I often times enforced the rules on certain things, like disobedience,” Ramon Heredia said, sitting at one end of a table in a small, stark room. The clean-cut, good-looking 21-year-old is wearing an orange jump suit and in a matter-of-fact way answering 20 minutes of questions from a Council Bluffs, Iowa police officer. On the day this video interview was recorded in 2011 Heredia had already been convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
“I would start talking to them, just like any other guy would. Charm them a little bit, let them think I’m nice,” Heredia said, answering a question about how he recruited girls. “Then, after a couple of weeks, a lot of them came to live with me, for whatever reason. Usually it was they didn’t have anywhere to stay. Then I would start off by telling them, asking if they were interested in doing rubdowns, as in massages, bra and pantie shows, or stripping, and they would do that for a couple days. And then, after that, they would become prostitutes.”
Heredia said he taught his recruits how to avoid police, and drove the women and girls to appointments. He considered himself “vice president” of a sex trafficking operation run in the Omaha area for almost three years by his aunt, Merrideth Crane-Horton. It was nasty stuff. Women were threatened with murder if they spoke with police. One was doused with water while naked, outdoors, in the winter, for disobeying orders. Among Heredia’s recruits were junior high girls he met at a high school football game.
“He was the main recruiter,” said Anna Brewer, a former Omaha-area FBI agent who helped bust the operation. “He was a good looking, young, charming kid (who) came from a good family. He was articulate. He was fun, he was funny. He was a friend to these people. He was a lover to some and he was able to manipulate the young ladies, to coerce them, to compel them, to entice them, to engage in this behavior. I know that none of these ladies would have done this without his coercion, without his manipulation, without his fraudulent statements, his promises of love. He took advantage of them.”
“Some of them I knew for a period of time, so I told them, ‘if you love me, you will do this,’” Heredia said, when asked in the law enforcement interview about what he would say to women and girls to ‘make them prostitute’ for him. “Others, I told them, ‘hey, it’s easy money to make, you can make a lot of money fast. It’s simple, you never have to see these people again.’ Things like that.”
When asked if he looked for a certain type of girl to recruit, Heredia responded that “usually it was a girl that I would see as vulnerable, in my opinion, as in, someone that’s not really, that didn’t come from a high-class family, that would be stuck up, or had everything they need, as you could say. They didn’t have a lot of luxuries, that kind of girl.”
Right after this 2011 police interview Heredia started serving 11 years in federal prison for trafficking. In a recent letter the now 27-year-old told us “he’s not proud” of what he did. In a remorseful way Heredia described himself as a young man who was “sold a dream” of a sex, drugs and money lifestyle by his aunt, who is also in federal prison.
Heredia agreed to do the interview with law enforcement, and let us use this in our “Sold for Sex” project, with the hopes of helping others learn about the crime.
“If you’re asking if I would go back and do it again, or if I could change it, I wouldn’t go back and do it again,” Heredia said in the video interview. “If I could go back and change all the things that I’ve done, and people I’ve hurt, I would definitely take that opportunity. When I look back on it, and reflect on it, I had a lot of fun, but in the end, it wasn’t worth it, and I hurt a lot of people that I really care about, and that really care about me.”
“I think he learned his lesson and sobered up quite quickly, when he realized the severity of what he had done, when he had some time to think,” Brewer said, talking about Heredia. “Because at his sentencing he was a different person. He realized that he was not raised that way. I don't believe he was raised that way. I'd like to think that he realized that he, too, was victimized and that his aunt manipulated him, and saw his vulnerabilities, and used those vulnerabilities against him to compel him to engage in this behavior. There's a part of me that feels really sorry for him. But at the same time, he acted in torturous behavior as well. He committed atrocious crimes and he needs to be held accountable for it.”