Jury Finds Two More Brothers Guilty In Human Trafficking Scheme
A jury today returned guilty verdicts against Mykhaylo Botsvynyuk, and his brother Yaroslav Botsvynyuk, a/k/a Yaroslav Churuk, both Ukrainian nationals living in Canada, on the charge of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise in connection with a human trafficking scheme. They face up to 20 years in prison. The defendants’ brothers, Omelyan and Stepan Botsvynyuk, were convicted at trial in October of 2011. A fifth brother, Dmytro Botsvynyuk, remains in Ukraine, a country that has not entered into an extradition treaty with the United States.
From the Fall of 2000 through the Spring of 2007, the defendants operated a human trafficking organization which smuggled young Ukrainian immigrants into the United States and then forced them to work for little or no pay. The defendants promised the victims they would earn $500 per month with free room and board by working for their organization. They smuggled the workers into the United States then put them to work as cleaning crews in retail stores, private homes, and office buildings without paying them. They used physical force, threats of force, sexual assault, and debt bondage to keep the victims in involuntary servitude. Even after some of the victims escaped, the defendants continued with their extortionist activities in order to recoup the organization’s investment in the workers. If direct threats failed and the workers did not return or make good on their debts, the Botsvynyuk brothers threatened violence to the workers’ families still residing in Ukraine. Some of the threats included threats to place the children of the workers, children who were still in Ukraine, into prostitution to work off the victims’ debts if the victims ran away.
Rather than bringing the workers to the United States legally, the Botsvynyuk Organization obtained tourist visas to Mexico and had operatives who coached the workers on how to enter the United States illegally. While some of the workers successfully entered the United States, others were taken into custody by U.S. immigration officials, where they remained in detention for almost two months. Once the victims were released, with immigration documents and summonses to appear for immigration hearings, the Botsvynyuk Organization transported them to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, either by bus or by plane. The brothers then confiscated the immigration documents and summonses from the workers and put them to work cleaning large chain stores at night, such as Target, Acme, Best Buy and Walmart, as well as smaller stores. Throughout their employment with the brothers, the workers lived with up to five people in one room, slept on dirty mattresses on the floor, and were rarely, if ever, paid. None of the victims was paid what was promised and they were told that they had to continue working until their debts, usually $10,000 or more, were paid. Workers were allegedly struck and beaten, sometimes in the presence of others, if they attempted to quit or leave the employ of the Botsvynyuk brothers. One female worker was brutally raped by one of the coconspirators. After some workers escaped, Omelyan Botsvynyuk resorted to extorting the workers’ families in Ukraine, threatening them with harm if the workers did not return to work or pay their debts. In one instance, he threatened the mother of a victim that he would kidnap her younger son and send him back to her finger-by-finger if the victim did not return to work.
Omelyan Botsvynyuk was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $288,272.29; Stepan was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $288,272.28.
The case was investigated by the Joint FBI Organized Crime/ICE Human Trafficking Alien Smuggling Task Force. Assistance was provided by Pennsylvania State Police, the Philadelphia Police Department, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Toronto Police Department, the German National Police, the Berlin State Police, the Ukraine Security Service, the US National Central Bureau, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the FBI LEGAT’s Office in Kiev, Ukraine, and INTERPOL.