RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A New Jersey man will spend 10 years in prison for sex trafficking after he was arrested in an undercover prostitution sting in Wake County, the United States Department of Justice said in a news release Wednesday.
Mark Daniel Benavidez, 40, was arrested on July 21, 2017, in the sting, that took place at a hotel in Cary.
He had rented two rooms and was posting online prostitution ads for three women, the release said.
Investigators determined Benavidez began prostituting one of the victims in 2016 in New Jersey. He recruited a second woman in the same state before taking the two to North Carolina in July 2017. Once there, he recruited a third victim, the DOJ said.
Benavidez was accused of physically abusing one of the victims on a weekly basis. He exploited the drug addictions of the other two, investigators said.
Drugs were found on one of the victims and in a hotel room at the time of Benavidez’s arrest. He also had more than $4,600 on him, the release said.
Authorities also seized more than $34,000 from storage units belonging to Benavidez in New Jersey and North Carolina.
“It is difficult to calculate the scope of damage caused by sexual exploitation and trafficking, which often leave victims with long-lasting trauma. Benavidez used fear, coercion, and violence to exploit and abuse his victims,” Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North Carolina and South Carolina, said. “HSI special agents, along with our law enforcement partners, are committed to pursuing those who perpetuate these horrendous crimes.”