A St. Thomas business owner appeared in District Court on Monday and admitted that she operated a brothel in Estate Contant and imported illegal immigrants to perform sex acts. U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller formally accepted the guilty plea of defendant Ramona Rivera Luna and instructed lawyers to prepare pre-sentencing reports.
Rivera Luna, also known as Clara, was present at the Embers Guest House in October 2020 when federal agents arrived with a search warrant. Court records say the agents searched the three-building complex and, when they found the entry to one section locked, used bolt cutters and a battering ram to execute a forced entry.
Homeland Security Investigations Division Special Agent Andrew Hayden said once inside the restricted area, authorities found two females, neither of whom spoke English. Agents also recovered “a large amount of condoms, as well as some lubricant, from the various rooms that were clearly occupied by females,” court documents said.
In total, 12 individuals were found on the premises at the Contant guest house; eight females, the defendant and her son, a nationalized citizen from the Dominican Republic, and a male employee believed to be a maintenance man. When instructed to retrieve their passports and present them to authorities, Hayden said eight of the females had documents from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela.
At the time the search warrant was executed, Rivera Luna told authorities she rented the guest house and had operated a business there for 15 years. She was charged with 20 criminal counts, including transporting for prostitution, bringing illegal aliens to the United States for financial gain, and alien harboring for financial gain.
At Monday’s hearing, the defendant entered guilty pleas to the first two counts. Miller entered a statement into the electronic file system saying that the proceeding had been carried out as specified in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedures, Rule 11.
“After cautioning and examining the defendant under oath concerning each of the subjects mentioned in Rule 11, I determined that the guilty plea was made knowingly and voluntarily as to each count and that the offenses charged were supported by an independent basis, in fact, containing each of the essential elements of such offense. I, therefore, recommend that the plea of guilty be accepted and that the defendant be adjudged guilty and have the sentence be imposed accordingly,” the magistrate said.
Rivera Luna faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.