Two Mexican Nationals Sentenced to Prison for Participating in Forced Labor Scheme
Two Mexican nationals, who were working in the Homestead, Florida, area and elsewhere, were sentenced today to prison for their participation in a conspiracy to obtain and provide forced labor.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
Agustin Mendez-Vazquez, 44, and his son, Ever Mendez-Perez, 24, both originally of Mexico, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. in October 2016. Agustin Mendez-Vazquez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide and obtain forced labor, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1594(b), and was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment. Ever Mendez-Perez pleaded guilty to one count conspiracy to encourage and induce illegal aliens to reside in the United States, in violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I), and was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. Agustin Mendez-Vazquez has also been ordered to pay restitution to the victims of his scheme.
“Forced labor equates to modern-day slavery and the United States Attorney’s Office, together with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners stand ready to prosecute those individuals who facilitate these illegal practices,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “Agustin Mendez-Vazquez and Ever Mendez-Perez’s convictions stand as a reminder to the public that the law enforcement community will not tolerate human trafficking - in any form. We urge anyone with information regarding human trafficking and forced labor practices to contact the police.”
"When individuals are forced and exploited for their labor, it erodes our society's belief in the freedoms afforded to us under the laws of our nation,” said Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami. “HSI will continue to investigate this type of illegal activity and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice."
According to court records, Agustin Mendez-Vazquez, who worked as an unlicensed labor subcontractor on tomato farms in the Homestead area and elsewhere, utilized physical force, threats of physical force, threats of deportation, and debt bondage to maintain control over other migrant workers. Workers in Mendez-Vazquez’s control were beaten if they did not work every day; were subjected to harassment and abuse; and were required to relinquish large portions of their paychecks – sometimes their entire paychecks – to Mendez-Vazquez. Ever Mendez-Perez, who worked with his father, assisted in maintaining and supervising the migrant workers.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, in collaboration with ICE-HSI, leads the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, which works to increase public awareness, rescue victims, and prosecute traffickers. The task force is composed of not only federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, but also includes non-law enforcement partners, such as service providers, victim advocates, faith-based organizations, academic representatives and community members.
The Fair Food Standards Council, a non-governmental organization that monitors and enforces the rights of migrant farmworkers in the Fair Food Program, referred this matter to law enforcement. Mr. Ferrer would like to thank the Fair Food Standards Council, as well the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the International Rescue Committee, and VIDA Legal Assistance, Inc., for their assistance with this case.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Widlanski.