‘I Will Never Forgive You’: Sex Trafficking Survivor Helps Put Her Captors Behind Bars
“Now I'm free, but the trauma, it's still there,” Faith Robles says of her three-and-a-half-year ordeal.
A teenager from Mexico ensnared in a sex-trafficking scheme in the United States managed to escape after years of suffering, and she’s now helping other survivors who have endured similar experiences.
Faith Robles was 13 when she met 16-year-old Francisco Melendez-Perez at a park in her small town and the two seemed to hit it off.
“He asked me to be his girlfriend,” Robles told KUTV, recalling how she felt she could talk to him about her troubled home life. “He was handsome and kind.”
After she turned 14, Robles went to live with her boyfriend’s family. She had no idea at the time what the decision would mean for her.
“I thought everything was normal because he promised me, and said to me, ‘We're going to the U.S., we are going to work together. We're going to build a house and we will have children.’”
Instead, the family brought her to Queens, New York, and her boyfriend said he had a job for her — an announcement she said “changed my life.”
“He told me that I was going to sleep with men, which I didn't understand,” she said. “I'm still 14, a child.”
Her purported boyfriend and four of his relatives — Jose Miguel Melendez-Rojas, Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas, Rosalio Melendez-Rojas, and Abel Romero-Melendez — were part of a family-run human trafficking ring who threatened to kill her loved ones and also traffic her sister if she didn’t cooperate with them.
According to Robles, her boyfriend warned her that if she went to police, they wouldn’t believe her and officers would place her under arrest.
For over the next three and a half years, Robles suffered beatings and sexual assaults as she was sold daily to dozens of men across multiple states, from urban to rural areas.
At one point, Robles suffered a broken jaw after she attempted to escape her captors. She said she wanted “to be dead” and “could no longer handle that life.”
Robles’ relatives in Mexico also couldn’t help her.
“My family did not have the resources to investigate. They never suspected anything at all,” she told ECPAT-USA, explaining, “My family is Indigenous, they did not know about pimps, they did not know about trafficking.”
The turning point for Robles came when she found out her traffickers had another victim and she learned about a documentary, Trata de Mujeres: de Tenancingo a Nueva York (From Tenancingo to New York).
“My trafficker and his uncles were saying, ‘This is all a lie.’ When I saw the documentary on YouTube, I said, ‘Oh wait, that happened to me,’ and I saw that law enforcement helped the victims. It inspired me to get help.”
In April 2014, Robles, then 17, worked up the nerve to go to a police station in New York and tell officers what was happening.
Melendez-Perez and his four relatives were arrested and charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, sex trafficking of minors, interstate prostitution, alien smuggling, and money laundering conspiracy.
At trial, Robles learned she had earned the men over $1 million and there were multiple victims, including minors.
“The traffickers in this case used deception and coercion to sell dreams of a better life in the United States to young and impressionable women, who arrived only to be forced into a life of torment, misery, sexual abuse, and prostitution at the hands of their captors,” Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Ricky Patel said.
The five family members operating the sex-trafficking ring were convicted of the charges against them in March 2020.
The previous year, a sixth co-defendant, Fabian Reyes-Rojas, 42, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking and is awaiting sentencing.
Following multiple delays, in February 2022, a judge sentenced the leaders of the trafficking scheme — Jose Miguel Melendez-Rojas, 45; Jose Osvaldo Melendez-Rojas, 46; and Rosalio Melendez-Rojas, 40 — to almost 40 years in prison. Abel Romero-Melendez, 35, received a 20-year sentence.
Francisco Melendez-Perez, now 27, received 25 years behind bars for the crimes, including the role he played in trafficking the child he tricked into thinking she was his girlfriend.
“Because of my testimony, the law enforcement were able to help other victims,” Robles said. “It was because of me. A minor who went to the police station.”
At sentencing, Robles recalled telling the defendants: “I hope you go to hell, because that's where you took me. I will never forgive you for what you did to me.”
Today, Robles is 25 and living in Utah, where she got married and founded Dahlia’s Hope, an organization providing trauma-informed aftercare services to others who have survived sex trafficking.
“Now I'm free, but the trauma, it's still there — physical injuries, PTSD — and that will never end,” Robles noted of her journey.
“I can't believe I went through that,” she said. “I can't believe that there are these guys, terrible guys that are hurting young children like myself, and that they don't care.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocate. Support is provided in more than 200 languages. They are here to listen and connect you with the help you need to stay safe.