Virginia Man and Woman Charged with Committing Forced Labor and Alien Harboring at Gas Station and Convenience Store for Multiple Years
Conrado Salgado Soto, 53, of Mexico, was sentenced to 51 months in prison today in the Northern District of Ohio for his role in luring Guatemalan minors and adults into the United States on false pretenses, then using threats of physical harm to compel their labor at egg farms in Ohio.
The announcement was made 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.
Salgado Soto pleaded guilty to the labor-trafficking conspiracy in August 2015.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed on July 2, 2015, members of the labor-trafficking conspiracy 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. Salgado’s co-conspirators then smuggled and transported the workers to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio, where he and his co-conspirators ordered them to live in dilapidated trailers and to work at physically demanding jobs at Trillium Farms for up to 12 hours a day for minimal amounts of money. 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.
Another co-defendant, Pablo Duran Jr., was sentenced today to 14 months in prison for alien harboring. Duran Jr. pleaded guilty in December 2015.
“The defendants operated a criminal enterprise that exploited the hopes and dreams of young people eager to make better lives for themselves here in the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute and hold accountable those who target innocent men, women and children for trafficking and threaten violence to assert their illegal control.”
“These defendants preyed upon vulnerable children with false promises of a better life and instead forced them into manual labor in horrific conditions on an egg farm for little or no pay,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rendon. “We will continue to prosecute human traffickers, whether they force children into the commercial sex industry or enslave them in rural parts of our district. Protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities will always remain a top priority.”
“These defendants preyed upon vulnerable children and families,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “This investigation revealed how they used threats, humiliation, deprivation and other means to keep these minors working and enriching the defendants.”
Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, led the conspiracy and pleaded guilty in December 2015 to the labor-trafficking conspiracy, forced labor, witness tampering and alien harboring. He will be sentenced on June 27, 2016. Ana Angelica Pedro Juan, 22, pleaded guilty in February 2016 to the trafficking conspiracy and her sentencing hearing is set for June 27. 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, as well as overseeing the trailers where the victims were housed and arranging for their wages to be transferred to co-conspirators in Guatemala and elsewhere.
Two other co-defendants, Conrado Salgado-Borbon and Bartolo Dominguez, pleaded guilty to immigration offenses in connection with this case and were sentenced to six and 12 months, respectively.
The investigation is ongoing. The case is being investigated by the FBI Cleveland Division’s Mansfield Resident Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the Marion Police Department and the Marion County Sherriff’s Office. 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.