FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
SIX INDICTED IN CONSPIRACY FOR TRAFFICKING AND HOLDING MIGRANT WORKERS IN CONDITIONS OF FORCED LABOR IN WESTERN NEW YORK
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Assistant Attorney General Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. and Michael A. Battle, United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, announced an eighteen-count indictment against six defendants who participated in a scheme to recruit, transport and harbor undocumented Mexican migrant workers, and then held them in conditions of forced labor at migrant labor camps near Buffalo, New York.
Agents of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested Maria Garcia, a farm labor contractor, as well as family members, Jose J. Garcia and Jose I. Garcia, in Fancher, New York earlier today. A third family member, Elias Botello, was also arrested in Mission, Texas today. Two additional defendants named in today's indictment, Rogelio Espinoza, another Garcia family member, and Sylvia Munoz Rubio, an Arizona woman, remain at large.
The indictment, unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, alleges that the six defendants conspired to recruit undocumented Mexican boys and men from Arizona and transport them to live in crowded, unsanitary migrant labor camps and perform agricultural work Orleans and Genesee Counties in western New York.
In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment also charges Garcia and various members of her family with holding workers in a condition of forced labor, trafficking workers into forced labor, transporting and harboring aliens, as well as violating the transportation safety provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act.
The indictment further alleges that the Garcia operation used guards to monitor workers' movements, engaged in verbal abuse and threats of physical harm, deportation and arrest. As part of the plan to control and exploit the workers, Garcia and members of her operation took large deductions from the workers' earnings, leaving them with virtually no pay. The indictment further charges that the defendants refused to let workers leave until deductions from their earnings paid off charges for transportation, food, housing, and other items that were not disclosed at the time of recruitment.
"Trafficking of migrant workers is a crime that exploits some of society's most vulnerable people," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd, Jr. "We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who conspire to traffic in human beings for the purpose of using them as forced labor."
This is one of the first cases brought under the forced labor and trafficking provisions of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, enacted by Congress to combat forms of coercion, such as psychological manipulation and intimidation, that traffickers use to hold their victims in conditions of servitude and forced labor. If convicted, the defendants face up to twenty years' incarceration.
This case is the result of an interagency investigation by agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Department of Labor through the National Worker Exploitation Task Force (WETF), which was founded in 2000 to address the problem of modern-day slavery in the United States. The case is being prosecuted by the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York.
Individuals can report other cases of trafficking or slavery to the Trafficking In Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force complaint line, at 1-888-428-7581. Additional information about the Task Force can be found at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/wetf.htm.