News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington


August 22, 2011

WASHINGTON –  The Justice Department announced today that Cherry Valera, 44, and Bernard Salvatierra, 46,  a married couple from Bellingham, Washington, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart in connection with their May 10, 2011 guilty pleas:  Valera pleaded guilty to harboring an alien for financial gain and Salvatierra pleaded guilty to unlawful employment of an alien.  Valera was sentenced to four months in prison and 100 hours of community service during two years of supervised release.  Salvatierra was sentenced to 6 months of home detention with electronic monitoring.  The couple paid the victim $57,000 in restitution at the time of their guilty pleas.  They are barred from having any contact with the victim or her family.

According to court filings, Valera recruited an impoverished, young woman from the Philippines to be her family’s live-in domestic servant.  Valera and Salvatierra employed the victim from August 2006 until September 2009, when she escaped.  During her employment, the victim was required to work seven days a week, providing full-time childcare, cleaning, cooking and other domestic services.  The victim endured verbal abuse and threats during her stay with the defendants, who paid the victim $200 to $240 per month. 

“The defendants took advantage of a vulnerable young woman for their personal financial gain,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who engage in such conduct.”  

“These defendants lured this victim with the promise to treat her like family, then exploited and controlled her.  Such conduct cannot be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and it was prosecuted jointly by Assistant United States Attorney Ye-Ting Woo and Trial Attorney Daniel Weiss of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. 


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