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Life sentence in sex trafficking case

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A man convicted of acting as a pimp for women forced into prostitution was sentenced to life in federal prison Wednesday for his role in what prosecutors called a sex trafficking ring that traded women like slaves between Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas.

Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, a Mexican national who operated out of Savannah, was a key figure among 25 defendants indicted in the case last year. A US District Court judge sentenced him five months after he pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring with others to engage in sex trafficking.

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Prosecutors said Mendez-Hernandez and his partners would bring women into the United States from Mexico and other countries and force them to have sex with 30 or more men each day for $25 apiece. They built a network that largely catered to Latino immigrants.

‘‘They enslaved women, they demeaned them, and they dehumanized them,’’ Tania Groover, the lead federal prosecutor in the case, told the judge during a sentencing hearing Wednesday.

‘‘I didn’t force anybody. I didn’t hurt anybody,’’ Mendez-Hernandez told the judge. ‘‘I beg forgiveness to all the women who worked for me.’’

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