CNN  — 

Luis Armando Campos says singing is his life. At 23, he’s already had a very impressive singing career that started when he was just a child in his native Tampico, a port city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

“I was about 11, almost 12, when I first appeared on a local TV show in Tampico,” Campos said.

In 2014, he was a semi-finalist in “The Voice Mexico.” The international reality singing competition franchise took his career to new levels. Even though he didn’t win, Campos has since toured Mexico with his music. But what his increasing number of fans didn’t know, Campos says, is that while his career was taking off, he was forced to live a double life – as a sex slave.

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Campos says his nightmare started at the age of 14 when he was, for all practical purposes, on his own due to his parents’ separation.

Rita Hernández, a board member of United vs Human Trafficking, a nonprofit devoted to protecting victims of human trafficking, says her organization provided legal assistance and counseling to Campos, a vulnerable and young victim, she says, that came from “a broken family.”

Hernández says the then 14-year-old boy, who was broke and no longer living with his parents, was easy prey for a Mario Enrique Miranda Palacios, a music producer and talent promoter who offered financial support and help promoting his career.

“This man came out of nowhere, promising an incredible singing career. He does have a beautiful voice. He [Miranda] started involving him in his own productions,” Hernández said.

‘Vulnerable to abuse’

Campos, then in junior high school, says his situation was desperate.

“By the time my mother made the decision to leave (to find work in a different state in order to support the family), he offered to help me and told her that he was going to take care of me because he saw me as a son,” Campos told CNN.

At first, Miranda kept his promises, cultivating Campos’ talent and polishing his singing voice.

“Even when the mother moved out of state, Armando stayed behind because the mother was so trusting of this man that was promising him this incredible career and for them, being so poor, his talent was his ticket out of poverty,” Hernández said.

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Campos says things quickly started to change. Campos says, when he was still 14, Miranda once asked him to show up early for a rehearsal.

“He took me into his office and it was there where, for the first time, he asked me to take off my shoes and my socks and kissed my feet. He said it was something normal and that he was giving a scholarship at this academy and that I could thank him this way, that it wasn’t something bad, that he was not going to tell anybody and that this was normal,” Campos said.

‘Forced into prostitution’

What started with verbal and sexual abuse soon worsened to forced prostitution, the singer said. The fact that he didn’t have his parents around him or any other adult that would’ve protected him only made him more vulnerable to abuse.

“I didn’t have anybody I could tell these things to. I didn’t have anybody to turn to,” Campos said.

At the time, Miranda was one of the most influential music producers and promoters in Mexico and had gained a reputation as a star maker. From this position of authority, it was easy to attract young, vulnerable victims like Campos, Hernández said.

“He was a teenager. He was a child. A child doesn’t have the mechanisms to protect themselves from violence or protect themselves from abuse,” Hernández said.

Campos says Miranda coerced him to work as a sex slave for four years starting at the age of 14. He says Miranda would get phone calls from strangers, most of whom were interested in young males. Miranda kept all the money and Campos only had his room and board expenses covered.

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Threats of harm to his family, deception by Miranda and psychological abuse, he says, kept him quiet and submissive. Campos says he finally found the courage to ignore the threats and flee after turning 18.

“I think it was anger held inside of me. It was the need to feel peace and calm. I was fed up of the screaming and the threats and that was what gradually built up that anger inside of me,” Campos said.

As a contestant in “The Voice Mexico,” he was coached by Yuri, a singer of international fame, who he says convinced him he had to report the abuse to authorities.

Arrest and trial

Miranda was arrested in March 2018 under charges of rape, corrupting minors and forced prostitution. The charges were later upgraded to rape and human trafficking, according to the Tamaulipas state’s attorney’s office, in order to prosecute Miranda under Mexico’s 2012 human trafficking law.

Miranda pleaded not guilty, but his trial is pending. CNN contacted Miranda’s attorney Juan Jorge Olvera Reyes in the city of Tampico. Olvera said Miranda denies the charges. “What happened in reality was that Campos and my client had a romantic relationship,” Olvera said.

Olvera also denied Miranda enslaved Campos, adding that the young man only went to the authorities after they broke up “and was motivated by revenge.” Olvera claims his client has letters, videos, pictures and witnesses to prove it.

Campos denies having a consensual relationship with Miranda and claims the defense is just using a pre-trial, legal strategy.

The trial started in July, but was suspended to give attorneys time to solve several legal matters. If convicted, Miranda faces up to 40 years behind bars.


In addition to his singing career, nowadays Campos is also an activist who talks openly about what he says he went through.

“As I tell my story to people, I feel like I’m getting free again. It’s like a therapy that helps me a lot,” Campos said. “And, well, telling my story to people who have recently gone through this, so they can see I’m moving forward also makes me feel good,”

The singer recently spoke at an event in front of members of the Mexican congress. “I feel wonderful. I had never been in this building before,” he said after leaving one of the chambers.

Campos says he cried when he learned the man he claims abused him and destroyed his adolescence was finally put behind bars. Asked if he finally feels free, he says “about 90 percent.” He will feel totally free, he says, when the man he accuses of abusing him for four years receives a long sentence.