HOUSTON - The FBI is offering a reward of up to $15,000 for information that leads to the arrest of a human trafficking suspect known as 'El Gallo.'
Gerardo 'El Gallo' Salazar is the alleged leader of a group that smuggled young men and young women into Houston and Mexico. He has been identified as "the most wanted human trafficking fugitive" in a statement from the FBI in Houston.
Five other people have already pleaded guity and served jail sentences for taking part in the trafficking operation.
In a news conference on Tuesday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers announced the reward increase from $5,000 to $15,000 for Salazar's capture and also presented an award to Constance Rossiter, YMCA International Trafficked Person's Assistance Program Director, to honor the organization's efforts in helping victims of human smuggling.
President Barack Obama has proclaimed that January 2010 be recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Houston is one of the five most dangerous U.S. cities for human trafficking and smuggling. A national hotline has been established to report human trafficking. Thirty percent of the calls to that hotline have come from the Houston area.
Most of the thousands of people smuggled and trafficked in the U.S. every year are women and children, especially young girls.
"It all comes down to greed. These are money making organizations who want to make money off the backs of these trafficking victims who are treated, not as human beings, but as commodities," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Gallagher.
The Houston-based Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance has rescued almost 200 victims since it was formed in 2004. Most victims of trafficking are severely abused, forced into prostitution and held against their will. Smuggling and trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business.
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