A 24-year-old man already in jail on a firearms charge is facing new charges of attempted sex trafficking of a 14-year-old girl after an undercover investigation by the Corpus Christi Police Department.
According to acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, a federal criminal complaint was filed Monday against 24-year-old Marcus Anthony Tunchez. He was allegedly in communication with an undercover officer regarding a girl that he believed was a just 14 years old but wanted to "make money" being a prostitute.
According to the charges, Tunchez met the child and planned to help her engage in commercial sex acts for money, getting his cut of the profits.
Tunchez now faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine, for the new charges.
Tunchez' mother, Maritza Tunchez, released the following statement in response to news of the charges:
"I want to thank KIII-TV for allowing me to respond on behalf of my son Marcus Anthony Tunchez. I am the mother of Marcus Tunchez and I share responsibility of my son's actions. To be transparent to the public, I want to state that my son is being wrongfully accused of an attempted child sex trafficking offense that will be represented by attorney John Gil. I firmly believe my son is innocent of the charges brought against him. My son has never been charged with any sex crimes in his past nor does he have any offenses against any children in his background. I will be working closely with John Gil investigating these false accusation against my son. I don't want to blame anybody, but at this point the accusations are simply false. I would empathize for the 14-year-old girl but fortunately a child was never involved in this case thus making my son innocent of any wrongdoing. We will take appropriate measures to get the case dismissed. Thank you for your concerns."
The Arrest Affidavit
According to an arrest affidavit, it was back in May when an undercover Corpus Christi police officer investigating narcotics distribution in the Corpus Christi area contacted Tunchez via social media to purchase methamphetamine. When they met to make the exchange, the officer said Tunchez told him what other narcotics he could sell him at a later date. The officer met Tunchez a couple more times to purchase meth from him.
During the investigation, the officer said he was able to determine that Tunchez was possibly involved in the prostitution of women in the Corpus Christi area. According to the affidavit, during one of their meetings, the officer asked Tunchez about finding women to engage in sex acts with for money, and Tunchez asked if he meant "Backpage girls," a term referring to a website that is known for that. The officer said yes and Tunchez proceeded to tell him the rates, adding "you didn't hear this from me, but I have three girls I work."
According to the affidavit, by "work" Tunchez was referring to getting paid for setting up meetings and providing security for the women who provide sex acts for money.
Over the next couple months, the affidavit states that Tunchez and the undercover officer remained in contact about future plans to make more methamphetamine purchases. During their communications, the affidavit states that the undercover officer told Tunchez he had met a young girl who was a "hustler" and "wanted to make some money." Tunchez agreed to meet with the officer to talk about the young prostitute.
On Sept. 13, Tunchez agreed to meet with the undercover officer at a location in Corpus Christi. They had previously planned to make another meth exchange, but Tunchez was unable to provide the drugs. Instead, the affidavit states Tunchez agreed to meet the officer and the young female they had discussed before.
Two female undercover officers, one posing as the initial officers girlfriend and the other posing as the young prostitute, drove to the meet location so that Tunchez could see the young girl. The plan was to have two hotel rooms, one so the older female could sell drugs, and the other for the younger female to perform sex acts for money.
Upon meeting the females, Tunchez asked the age of the younger officer and was told that she was 14.
The affidavit states it was at this point that Tunchez explained the risk involved in prostituting out a 14-year-old girl, saying that law enforcement officers could pose as "tricks" and arrest them. He said there are ways around it, like saying the women were only there to give massages.
Tunchez also said, "Plus she is from somewhere else, so that is sex trafficking." When asked how much they could make off the supposed 14-year-old girl, he said $10,000.
Tunchez proceeded to explain the math of the deal to the women, according to the affidavit. He also told the original undercover officer he had been in contact with that he was "blue to the pimp game," meaning he didn't know what he was doing when it came to sex trafficking.
The affidavit states Tunchez told the officer he would help teach him how to be a "pimp."
The Corpus Christi Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force assisted Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration with the investigation. The case was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to catch those who sexually exploit and abuse children, and rescue their victims.