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Man charged in drug, human trafficking operation appears in court

Man charged in drug, human trafficking operation appears in court

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SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of coercing teenage boys into drug and human trafficking appeared in court Tuesday to face nearly three dozen criminal charges.

Victor Manuel Rax shuffled into court, his hair disheveled, and peered around the courtroom for the brief appearance before 3rd District Judge LA Dever. The 42-year-old man waived a reading of the charges against him, now totaling 34 felonies.

Initially charged with three drug-related counts, he was charged Monday with 31 additional charges, including aggravated human trafficking for forced labor involving a child, racketeering, and multiple counts of forcible sodomy on a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, child endangerment and object rape.

Rax is accused of trafficking teenage boys, mainly undocumented Latinos, for sexual purposes and then using fear to force them into sex and drug trafficking.

Rax would use money, gifts, food and drugs to groom his victims before abusing them, according to charging documents. Prosecutors list seven victims, some who were as young as 9 when the abuse began.

Each of the boys reported a similar pattern of being lured by offers of free alcohol and later drugs, being sexually abused and then threatened. The boys also told police they were afraid something would happen to them or their families if they tried to get away.

"One thing he used in the community was a lot of fear," Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said of Rax. "He was able to get his victims young, was able to build trust with them (but) with that there was a lot of fear. He was using a lot of intimidation. ... Hopefully this will be the end of it."

Yapias said many of the alleged victims' parents didn't realize what was going on and many of them trusted Rax as a fellow adult who was referred to as "Tio" or "Uncle" in some communities. Yapias said he is confident the justice system will take Rax off of the streets for life.

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Meantime, he said they are working to help the alleged victims.

"Lives have been shattered here," Yapias said. "The lives of kids have been shattered. I don't believe any of the victims have received any treatment. We're working with them to get them the help they need."

There was a large Bikers Against Child Abuse presence at the hearing Tuesday. One of the members, who identified himself as "Teddy Bear," said he was hopeful Rax would be kept from harming children in the future. "He's messing with our communities," he said. "These are our kids and we need to get him off the streets."

A scheduling conference is set for March 28 in the case.

Rax's two brothers are also facing criminal charges.

Marcos Tot-Chun, 31, was charged with two counts of forgery, a third-degree felony. Victor Alfredo Rax, 31, was charged with tampering with a witness and another of retaliation of a witness. Both counts are third-degree felonies.

After Victor Manuel Rax was arrested, Victor Alfredo Rax called one of the alleged victims in his brother's sex trafficking case and asked him to come to his house.

"At his home, he told (the victim) to not to testify against his brother, Victor Manuel Rax, that he would be taken care of financially if he did not appear and testify, but threatened that if he did testify against Victor Manuel Rax he would regret it," according to charging documents.

Tot-Chun was charged with having a Permanent Resident Card and a Social Security card in his name, both of which were fake, according to court documents. According to a Salt Lake County Jail report, Tot-Chun told investigators he "purchased them for $80 from a taco cart when he arrived here years ago."

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