Texas Couple Sentenced for Alien Harboring Scheme Involving Labor Exploitation
Defendants required Cambodian victim to work long hours for minimal pay both in their home and at their business in Texas to repay purported debt
Tyno Keo, 38, and, Phearom Lay, 34, of Nacogdoches, Texas, were sentenced yesterday in federal court in Beaumont, Texas, after previously pleading guilty to alien harboring for financial gain, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown of the Eastern District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson of the FBI in Dallas.
U.S. District Court Judge Ron Clark for the Eastern District of Texas sentenced Defendant Keo to six months incarceration and Defendant Lay to six months incarceration, followed by two years of supervised release. Judge Clark also ordered the defendants to pay $5,000 each in fines and $41,024.31 in joint restitution.
According to court documents, between September 2012 and May 2013, the defendants harbored the victim and required her to work long hours for little pay performing childcare, cleaning their home, and as an employee at their business, the Donut Palace. The scheme started in Cambodia, where Defendant Lay’s sister owed the defendants $50,000 for shared family medical expenses. To satisfy her debt, Lay’s sister arranged for the victim to obtain a temporary tourist visa and travel from Cambodia to the United States to work for the defendants. As a result, the $50,000 debt was transferred to the victim. Once the victim arrived in the United States, the defendants took possession of her passport and visa, and continued to harbor and employ her after her visa expired in December 2012. The defendants paid the victim $1,000 a month for her labor and withheld a portion of it to repay the purported $50,000 debt.
“The defendants violated immigration laws and exploited a vulnerable individual who lacked immigration status, requiring her to work long hours for little pay,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “This Justice Department will not tolerate this type of immigration and labor exploitation, and is committed to aggressively pursuing and prosecuting individuals who engage in such crimes.”
“These types of crimes happen more than people know,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph Brown. “There are populations that are vulnerable to this type of exploitation, and it is a good thing that federal law enforcement is making people who engage in this conduct aware that the laws against it will be enforced.”
“We need to bring these types of crimes out of the shadows of darkness and resolve it from not only a law enforcement concern, but identify the community’s role in stopping such a heinous crime,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Jackson.
This case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Gaston of the Eastern District of Texas, and William E. Nolan of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.