The young Mexican woman couldn’t believe the offer.
A woman from the United States presented an opportunity to be a surrogate for her and her boyfriend with compensation once the baby was delivered.
Transportation to the U.S. would be taken care of and a place to live was not a problem, the woman said.
But the reality was a one-bedroom apartment off Jacksonville’s Arlington Expressway where the Mexican woman was forced to sleep on the dining room floor while her host slept with her boyfriend in the bedroom and the host’s son slept on a couch.
The same floor where she was forced to sleep was the spot where her host tried to artificially inseminate her with her boyfriend’s semen.
There were no doctors in the room or any type of medical supervision.
The instrument used was a common plastic syringe filled with semen extracted from a used condom.
When that didn’t work, the abuse started.
The victim was forced to have sex with two other “American” men and the psychological and physical abuse got worse and worse.
The entire time — from December 2012 to January 2015 — the woman was isolated and threatened with force to keep her in a state of “involuntary servitude and forced labor.”
That was the picture outlined by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a 40-page indictment against Esthela M. Clark, 46, of Jacksonville, who is charged with smuggling the Mexican woman across the border, labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
COMING TO THE RESCUE
The supposed surrogate had arrived in Jacksonville in December 2012 and she finally met the woman who would save her in November 2014, according to the indictment.
That woman, Iomara Miranda, thought it was strange to see someone washing cars in cold weather with very little clothing. She also noticed physical signs of abuse.
When she approached the Mexican woman it was clear she spoke very little English and was scared to say too much about her situation.
The little information she could gather from her made it clear she needed to escape so that’s what Miranda helped her to do, according to the indictment.
She took her into her home and eventually alerted authorities about the story of smuggling and abuse.
The indictment indicates the relationship between the victim and Clark started in Mexico when the two were introduced by a mutual friend.
Clark told the woman she was willing to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 for a surrogate and the process would be completely legal.
A gynecologist examined the Mexican woman before the trip began and did not find any issues, according to the indictment.
COMING TO AMERICA
Clark provided a bus ticket from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Coahuila, Mexico and the journey was underway.
Smugglers took the woman over the border to San Antonio, then on to Houston before boarding a bus that would take her to Jacksonville.
Clark’s son picked her up in Jacksonville and took her to the one-bedroom apartment in the 7200 block of Arlington Expressway.
She waited alone for a day until Clark arrived, according to the indictment.
When Clark finally arrived she warned the woman not to leave the apartment because she didn’t speak English and the neighborhood was dangerous.
Clark also told her she read Tarrot cards and would know if she tried to hide anything.
A week later the inseminations started.
Clark would have sex with her boyfriend using a condom and then extract the semen into a plastic syringe.
The semen was then inserted into the Mexican while she laid on the floor in the dining room.
The inseminations happened about three or four times a day and continued until about September 2013, according to the indictment.
Although Clark had told the woman she would be inseminated legally and with medical care, the only medical attention she received was when she was taken to a clinic on University Boulevard for pregnancy tests.
But the self-administered inseminations weren’t working.
Clark told the woman she was “too fat” to conceive and she lost 65 pounds while living in the United States, according to the indictment.
The victim was forced to have sex with two “American” men and Clark also tried to inseminate her using the semen from a man who she met at a Jacksonville night club.
The abuse included threats directed at the victim’s family as well as physical abuse.
For example, once the woman used bleach to clean the apartment because Clark’s dog had fleas but Clark felt she used too much, according to the indictment.
She punished the woman by making her sleep on the kitchen floor in a puddle of bleach.
BONDI ADDRESSING ISSUE
Human trafficking is an issue that State Attorney General Pam Bondi is addressing this week.
She will convene a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking Thursday at 1 p.m. in Tampa.
Bondi chairs the 15-member council that builds on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking. Members include law enforcement officers, legislators, prosecutors and experts in the fields of health, education and social services.
Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308