FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
THREE FLORIDA MEN CONVICTED IN CONSPIRACY
TO DETAIN WORKERS IN CONDITIONS OF INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE
Three Florida citrus contractors were convicted of conspiring to hold workers in involuntary servitude and harboring undocumented workers, the Justice Department announced today. The defendants Ramiro Ramos, Juan Ramos and Jose Ramos were also convicted of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion and use of a firearm during the course of a violent felony.
As a result of Ramiro and Juan Ramos' convictions on the conspiracy and harboring offenses, the jury also determined in a separate proceeding yesterday that certain property, including vehicles, real property and over $3 million in proceeds were subject to criminal forfeiture. The jury determined that this property was used in furtherance of the conspiracy or obtained as the result of the criminal enterprise. Additional proceedings regarding forfeitable property are pending.
The original indictment, filed on May 24, 2001 in U.S. District Court in Ft. Pierce, Florida, alleged that the defendants worked as farm labor contractors under the company name, R&A Harvesting, Inc., and engaged in a conspiracy to hold migrant farm laborers in involuntary servitude and supply those laborers to citrus industry growers.
A superseding indictment, filed on May 16, 2002 in U.S. District Court in Ft. Pierce, stated that during the period of the conspiracy, January 2000 to June 2001, brothers Ramiro Ramos and Juan Ramos, employed up to 700 workers, the vast majority of whom were undocumented. The defendants recruited workers by paying their transportation debts from Arizona to Florida. The workers were threatened with violence and told they could not leave until they paid a $1000 debt to the defendants.
The indictment also alleged that the Ramos brothers and their cousin, Jose Ramos, threatened at gun point and violently attacked the owner and operator of a small unlicensed van service and his employees who transported workers from Lake Placid, Florida to various locations both within and outside of Florida at the end of the citrus growing season. The attack on the van operator and his employees resulted in the conviction on the charge of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion.
"Human trafficking is a serious crime," said Ralph F. Boyd., Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "Ending human trafficking is a priority for the Department, and we will prosecute such crimes to the fullest extent of the law."
The investigation of the Ramoses lasted two years and began after members of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, an advocacy organization that represents migrant farm workers in Florida, contacted the FBI and alerted them to abuses by the defendants. A call to the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force complaint line yielded additional information implicating the Ramoses in the assault on the van operator and his employees.
The FBI and the Border Patrol of West Palm Beach, Florida, conducted the investigation. The Department of Justice extends its appreciation to the Mexican Consulate in Miami and the Catholic Charities of St. Petersburg for assisting the Department in locating and aiding the victims of these crimes, and to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its assistance in enabling the victims to access necessary services. The case was prosecuted by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, with the assistance of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The Ramoses' conspiracy pre-dates the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which increased criminal penalties and broadened prosecutors' authority in trafficking cases to reach modern forms of slavery. The Act also gives victims better access to services such as shelters, counseling and medical care, and it provides a means for alien victims to stay in the United States and assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. The defendants will be sentenced in accordance with the laws in effect at the time of their offenses.
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. More information about the Task Force can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/tpwetf.htm.