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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 1, 2021

Brother and Sister Admit to Forced Labor Scheme

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY –  September 30, 2021

SAN DIEGO – Cindy Mydung Luu and Jason Luu of Tierrasanta, siblings and naturalized United States citizens, pleaded guilty in federal court today to document servitude, admitting to a forced labor scheme where the victim was their Vietnamese cousin. 

In a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford, the defendants admitted to facilitating the travel of their cousin (identified in the plea agreements as “LX”) from Vietnam to the United States on a student visa in September 2014.  Following her arrival, the defendants forced LX to work up to seven days per week for up to 12 hours per day, and she was required to forfeit all of her income.  From December 2014 to March 2016, she worked for one of the defendants’ relatives at a San Diego business, and after obtaining her nail technician’s license, the defendants directed LX to quit college and work full time at their two nail salons, Eden Nails Lounge & Spa and Majestic Nail Salon, both located in Rancho Bernardo.  The defendants also arranged a sham marriage to defendant Jason Luu in 2015 so that LX could obtain status as a legal permanent resident in the United States.  Once she was granted legal permanent resident status, the defendants withheld LX’s “green card” from her as part of their forced labor scheme.  Throughout this period of time, the defendants forced LX to work at their businesses by threatening LX with the loss of her immigration status.  According to the plea agreements, the Department of Labor currently estimated that the defendants owe LX back wages, overtime, and liquidated damages in the amount of $279,467.52.

“Forced work is a form of modern-day slavery that exacts a significant financial and emotional toll.  In addition to robbing victims of fair wages and freedom, this systematic coercion instills a sense of helplessness, humiliation, disorientation and confusion, often causing lasting trauma,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The federal government will vigorously pursue those who exploit the vulnerable and force them to work to line their own pockets.”  Grossman commended the excellent work of AUSA Seth Askins and former AUSA Chris Tenorio and the federal Homeland Security Investigations agents who pursued this case, which also received support from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Grossman encouraged those who come into contact with a worker who appears to be controlled or coerced to report their suspicions. Although there is no single way to identify victims of labor trafficking, some common patterns include:

  • Isolating victims to prevent them from getting help. Their activities are restricted and they are typically watched, escorted or guarded by associates of traffickers. Traffickers may even “coach” them to answer questions with a cover story about being a student or tourist.
  • Victims may be blackmailed by traffickers using the victims’ status as an undocumented alien or their participation in an “illegal” industry. By threatening to report them to law enforcement or immigration officials, traffickers keep victims compliant.
  • People who are trafficked often come from unstable and economically devastated places as traffickers frequently identify vulnerable populations characterized by oppression, high rates of illiteracy, little social mobility and few economic opportunities.
  • Women and children are often the most common victims of labor trafficking.

Individuals who suspect human trafficking are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.373.7888. This hotline helps members of the public determine if they have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available to help victims, and will help coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives.

The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on December 17, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey T. Miller.

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number 19CR4970-JM                                            

Cindy Mydung Luu                                        Age: 54                                   San Diego, CA

Jason Luu                                                      Age: 46                                   San Diego, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Document Servitude – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1592

Maximum penalty: 5 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine

AGENCY

Homeland Security Investigations

Contact: 
Assistant U. S. Attorney C. Seth Askins (619) 546-6692
Press Release Number: 
CAS21-1001-Luu
Updated October 1, 2021