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15-Year Sentence in Slavery, Human Trafficking Case in Ohio Involving Minors

June 30, 2016 (2 min read)

DOJ, June 27, 2016 - "According to documents filed in the case and admissions made in court in connection with the guilty pleas, the defendants and their associates recruited workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, by falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school in the United States. The defendants then smuggled and transported the workers to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio, where they ordered them to live in dilapidated trailers and to work at physically demanding jobs at Trillium Farms for up to 12 hours a day for minimal amounts of money. The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, debeaking chickens and vaccinating chickens. Eight minors and two adults were identified in the indictment as victims of the forced labor scheme.

Castillo-Serrano recruited the victims, smuggled them into the United States, oversaw money transfers and issued threats to ensure compliance. Pedro-Juan falsely represented herself to government officials as a family friend of the minor victims in order to have them released to her custody. She also oversaw the trailers where the victims were housed and arranged for their wages to be transferred to co-conspirators in Guatemala and elsewhere.

“These defendants preyed on the hopes of vulnerable young workers, turning their dreams into a nightmare by exploiting their undocumented status and using fear to compel them to work long hours for minimal pay,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “This case demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to combating labor trafficking by holding traffickers accountable and restoring the rights, freedom and dignity of victims. I commend the strong partnerships that contributed to dismantling this human trafficking organization.”

The Northern District of Ohio is one of six districts selected as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. Designated ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor; international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.

“These defendants forced minors to work around the clock and live in inhumane conditions, while threatening them and their relatives,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rendon. “Today’s prison sentence underscores the severity of these human trafficking cases, but also should serve as a reminder that these cases happen all around us in plain sight.”

“These defendants preyed on the desire of the children and their parents for a better life by offering freedom on American soil only to be imprisoned in servitude,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony."