WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., today found three Miami-area residents guilty of felony federal civil rights offenses related to forcing a young Haitian woman to work as a domestic servant in their home. Evelyn Theodore and Maude Paulin were convicted of one count of conspiring to violate the victim’s civil rights and a second count of compelling the victim to perform forced labor. Theodore, Paulin and Paulin’s ex-husband, Saintford Paulin, were also found guilty of harboring an illegal alien. A fourth defendant, Claire Telasco, was acquitted of the conspiracy and forced labor charges. Theodore and Maude Paulin each face a maximum punishment of thirty years imprisonment, criminal fines and restitution for their victim. Sentencing is scheduled for May 20, 2008.
The evidence at trial showed that in 1999, Theodore and her daughter, Maude Paulin, arranged for the then-14-year-old victim to be brought to the Miami area illegally from Haiti to work in Theodore and Paulin’s home. Between 1999 and June 2005, Theodore and Maude Paulin forced the victim to work in their home as a domestic servant. The victim typically worked up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, cooking, cleaning and doing other household and yard work for the defendants. Theodore and Maude Paulin compelled the victim to perform this work through a combination of psychological coercion and physical force, including striking the victim with their hands, fists, and other objects and threatening to have the victim jailed and sent to Haiti if she refused to work. The victim was not paid for her work, nor was she provided formal or informal schooling despite her young age. In June 2005, the victim escaped from the defendants with the assistance of a family friend who had witnessed this treatment.
“These defendants used their power and affluence to coerce a vulnerable 14-year old girl into their personal service for six years,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to vigorously prosecuting this type of forced servitude.”
“We hope today’s verdict brings a measure of justice and relief to the teenage victim enslaved by the defendants,” said R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “No human being should be subjected to involuntary servitude, much less a child.”
Human trafficking prosecutions such as this one are a top priority of the Department of Justice. In the last seven fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by nearly seven-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years. In FY 2007, the Department obtained a record number of convictions in human trafficking prosecutions.
This case was investigated by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Tantillo from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorneys Edward Chung and Cyra O’Daniel from the Civil Rights Division.