Two Guatemalan Nationals Sentenced in Connection with Labor Trafficking Scheme and Forced Labor of Other Guatemalan Nationals
Lured Relatives to U.S. with Promises of a Better Life, But Instead Subjected them to Forced Labor, Increasing Debt, and Threats of Deportation
Two Guatemalan nationals were today sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, for their scheme to exploit other Guatemalan nationals for their own financial gain, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington. Antonio Francisco-Pablo, 60, residing in Forks, Washington, was sentenced to three years in prison for one count of forced labor. Antonia Marcos Diego, 42, also residing in Forks, Washington, was sentenced to one year of probation for one count of document servitude in furtherance of forced labor. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton described their crimes as a “despicable offense” and a “serious degree of exploitation.”
According to documents filed in court, defendant Antonia Marcos Diego and her husband, Antonio Francisco-Pablo, lured Diego’s sister to enter the United States from Guatemala, falsely promising that they would provide her with a home, a job earning a lot of money, and a good life. Contrary to these promises, however, the defendants saddled the victim with significant debt upon arrival in the United States, and informed her that she would work off the debt by picking salal, a plant commonly used by florists. The defendants retained all of the victim’s earnings and increased her debt by imposing additional charges on her for food, housing, transportation, and utilities. The defendants also kept the victim’s identification documents and threatened her with deportation if she ever tried to leave them. According to court documents, the defendants similarly lured another relative to the United States from Guatemala, and also imposed a significant debt upon him after his arrival.
“The defendants forced their own family members to work for no pay after luring them to the United States on false promises of a better life,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute labor traffickers, who exploit vulnerable individuals for their own greed and erode the American ideals of freedom, opportunity, and the rule of law.”
“What these defendants did to their victims amounts to modern day slavery and will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “All of us in law enforcement are committed to addressing the needs of victims and holding perpetrators to account. I encourage anyone with information about this kind of forced labor victimization to go to law enforcement and be part of the solution.”
Both defendants will pay $18,950 in restitution to the victims. Francisco-Pablo was in the U.S. unlawfully, and it is virtually certain that he will be deported following his prison term. Antonia Marcos Diego will be on probation for one year.
The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, Port Angeles Police Department, and Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bruce F. Miyake and Trial Attorney Matthew T. Grady of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.