Three charged with forcing immigrant minors to work at Ohio egg farms
In an indictment unsealed today, a federal grand jury charged three people with smuggling Guatemalan minors into the United States and forcing them to work at egg farms in Ohio, law enforcement officials said.
A fourth defendant was charged with harboring illegal aliens as part of a 15-count superseding indictment.
The indictments were announced by Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office, and Marlon Miller, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio.
The defendants and their associates smuggled workers as young as 14 or 15 from Guatemala to the United States, falsely promising them that they would be able to attend school in the United States. The defendants transported the minors 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, according to the indictment.
The defendants threatened workers with physical harm and withheld their paychecks in order to compel them to work. The indictment lists eight victims under the age of 18 and two adult victims.
Indicted are: Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, of Pecos, Texas; Conrado Salgado Soto, 52, of Raymond, Ohio; Ana Angelica Pedro, 21, of Columbus and Juan Pablo Duran Jr., 23, of Marysville, Ohio.
Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, Conrado Salgado Soto, and Ana Angelica Pedro Juan are charged with a labor-trafficking conspiracy. Castillo-Serrano is also charged with 10 individual counts of forced labor; Salgado Soto and Pedro Juan are charged in eight of those 10 counts. Castillo-Serrano and Salgado Soto are also charged with harboring illegal aliens, as is an additional defendant, Pablo Duran Jr.
Castillo-Serrano and Pedro Juan are charged with witness tampering for trying to persuade another person to give false information to the FBI. Pedro Juan herself is also charged with lying to the FBI.
“This indictment charges the defendants with putting profits ahead of common decency,” Dettelbach said. “Human beings are not commodities like farm products. Those who are somehow confused about that difference need to learn that lesson.”
“These defendants preyed upon vulnerable children and families,” Anthony said. “This investigation revealed how they used threats, humiliation, deprivation and other means to keep these minors working and enriching the defendants.”
“Human trafficking and forced labor are forms of modern-day slavery,” Miller said. “Criminal organizations involved in human trafficking truly damage their victims and undermine basic human decency. HSI, FBI, U.S. Border Patrol as well as our state and local law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively combat human trafficking and forced labor in all its forms.”
Each of the 11 trafficking counts and the witness tampering count carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Each count of harboring illegal aliens and lying to the FBI carries a sentence of up to 5 years.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The investigation is ongoing.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Office, Mansfield Resident Agency; and the Department of Homeland Security. The case is being jointly prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice.