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Monday, February 29, 2016

Remaining Defendant Pleads Guilty to Forced Labor Scheme that Exploited Guatemalan Minors at Ohio Egg Farms

Ana Angelica Pedro Juan, 22, of Guatemala, the remaining indicted defendant in a human-trafficking ring, pleaded guilty today in federal court to conspiring to lure Guatemalan minors and adults into the United States on false pretenses, then coercing their labor at egg farms in Ohio.  The guilty plea was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Carole S. Rendon of the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

Pedro Juan pleaded guilty to a labor trafficking conspiracy.  Her co-conspirators, Aroldo Castillo Serrano, 33, of Guatemala, and Conrado Salgado Soto, 53, of Mexico, pleaded guilty in August 2015 to participating in the same conspiracy in addition to immigration offenses.  The guilty pleas are pending approval from a federal court judge and are not final until that approval is granted.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed on July 2, 2015, the defendants and their associates recruited workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school in the United States.  The defendants then smuggled and transported the workers to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio, where they ordered them to live in dilapidated trailers and to work at physically demanding jobs at Trillium Farms for up to 12 hours a day.  The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, de-beaking chickens and vaccinating chickens.  Eight minors and two adults were identified in the indictment as victims of the forced labor scheme.

As set forth in the indictment, Pedro Juan’s role in the scheme included falsely representing herself to government officials as a family friend of the minor victims in order to have them released to her custody.  In doing so, she pledged under oath to ensure that the victims went to school and were protected from abuse.  She also arranged to have victims released to the custody of other associates in exchange for money.  Pedro Juan also oversaw the trailers where the victims were housed and arranged for their wages to be transferred to co-conspirators in Guatemala and elsewhere.

“These defendants preyed on vulnerable children by falsely promising them good jobs and quality schools only to abuse and exploit them for profit,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “As shown today, the Department of Justice will continue to use the full resources of the federal government to aggressively prosecute the heinous crime of human trafficking.”

“This case is a stark reminder that human trafficking hides in plain sight all around us,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rendon.  “It underscores the need for all of us to be vigilant where we live and work.  When something seems suspicious, we need to report it, not ignore it.”

“Ana Angelica Pedro Juan, along with two other defendants, forced adults and children to work and live in deplorable conditions in exchange for false promises,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony.  “These reprehensible actions are unacceptable, and the FBI will continue to work with our partners to bring to justice those who engage in human trafficking.”

Pedro Juan’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.  The charge against her carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  Castillo-Serrano, Salgado Soto and another defendant, Pablo Duran Jr., will be sentenced on April 11.  Duran Jr. pleaded guilty to an immigration offense on Dec. 14, 2015.  Two other defendants, Conrado Salgado-Borbon and Bartolo Dominguez, have pleaded guilty to immigration offenses in connection with this case and were sentenced to six and 12 months, respectively.

The case is being investigated by the FBI Cleveland Division’s Mansfield Resident Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.  The case is being jointly prosecuted by Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio.

Civil Rights
Human Trafficking
Updated August 10, 2016