Mankato, Minnesota, Woman Sentenced in Forced Labor Case
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson sentenced Tieu Tran, 59, of Mankato, Minn., to serve one year and one day in prison followed by 1 year supervised probation upon release, the Justice Department announced today. Tran pleaded guilty to one count of forced labor trafficking on March 25, 2014. Tran is the former owner and manager of Nails By Jordan, a nail salon located in Mankato.
According to evidence presented in court proceedings and documents, in 2008, Tran recruited a woman from Vietnam to travel to the United States using false promises of legal immigration status and a high-paying job. In reality, Tran smuggled the victim and two other Vietnamese nationals across the southern U.S.-Mexico border, imposed a significant debt upon her, and forced her to pay down the smuggling debt by working at Tran’s son’s Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Saigon, in Mankato.
Tran admitted to compelling the victim to work long hours without paying her as promised, using a scheme, plan and pattern of coercion, including manipulation of debts, isolation, and intimidation that held the victim in fear, knowing that the victim was without legal status and money, did not speak English, feared losing her family home in Vietnam to creditors, and had nowhere else to turn for subsistence.
“This defendant callously preyed on the victim’s vulnerabilities and exploited her labor through intimidation, debts, and isolation,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Kappelhoff for the Civil Rights Division. “Human trafficking is an affront to human rights and to our nation’s core values, and the Justice Department is committed to vindicating the rights of the victims and to bringing human traffickers to justice.”
“Prosecuting human traffickers is a priority of this Office,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger for the District of Minnesota. “Tieu Tran smuggled this victim into the United States who she forced to work long hours in her nail salon by isolating and intimidating her. This kind of abuse simply is unjust. I am proud to work with the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to end human trafficking in Minnesota.”
“The FBI remains committed to ensuring that innocent persons are not exploited by human traffickers,” said Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton for the FBI Minneapolis Division. “There will be no safe harbor granted to those who prey upon vulnerable people. Those who exploit other human beings will continue to be high priority targets for the FBI.”
As part of her plea agreement, Tran agreed to nullify all debts imposed upon the victim, and upon seven other individuals. The Court further ordered that Tran pay 51,844 in restitution to the victim.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William Nolan of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Steinkamp of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.