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Press Release

Two Niagara County Men Charged With Forcing Undocumented Immigrants To Work In Their Mexican Restaurant

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Roberto Montes-Villalpando, 59, of Sanborn, NY, and Abraham Montes, 27, of Lockport, NY, with conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, conspiracy to harbor aliens for financial gain, harboring an alien for financial gain, and harboring an alien for financial gain and causing serious bodily injury. Abraham Montes is also charged with transporting an alien for financial gain. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan A. Tokash, who is handling the case, with support from the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, stated that according to the indictment, the defendants owned and operated El Cubilete Mexican Restaurant, formerly located at 9400 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Niagara Falls, NY, between December 2014 and late 2018, at which time the restaurant moved to 2050 Cayuga Extension in Niagara Falls. Defendant Montes-Villalpando managed the restaurant, supervised the staff, including wait and kitchen staff, made hiring and firing decisions, and determined payroll. Defendant Montes supervised the kitchen staff of El Cubilete. The kitchen staff included Victims 1, 2, 3, and 4, who were each natives and citizens of Mexico without any legal status in the United States. The victims were employed by the defendants as cooks, food preparers, and dishwashers. In addition, the victims sublet an apartment rented by defendant Montes-Villalpando in Niagara Falls.

Between November 1, 2014, and February 18, 2018, the defendants recruited and hired undocumented foreign nationals who had entered the United States illegally to work for them. Montes-Villalpando and Montes enticed prospective laborers who lived and worked in Ohio, including Victim 1 and Victim 2, to work at El Cubilete by promising better pay and fewer hours. The defendants conspired to obtain the labor and services of Victims 1 through 4 by serious harm and threats of serious harm. During the course of the conspiracy, the defendants are accused of causing serious bodily injury to Victim 3. 

“As alleged in this indictment, the defendants took advantage of these aliens by using threats and, in at least the case of one victim, physical force, in order to exploit them,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Human trafficking of any sort, including forced labor, will not be tolerated in our great country, and those who seek to inflict such an injustice on another human being will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”  

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is committed to investigating and prosecuting all forms of human trafficking, including forced labor,” said Special Agent-in- Charge Kevin Kelly of HSI Buffalo. “Forced labor strips individuals of their basic human freedom and has no place in a modern society or in our community. HSI is proud of the work accomplished in this case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and our law enforcement partners.”

“This is a fine example of how the Human Trafficking Task Force is working between federal and local law enforcement agencies,” said Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard. “These charges are the result of a detailed investigation and our proof of the commitment that law enforcement has to putting an end to human trafficking in this area.”   

The defendants were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and released on conditions.

The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations – Labor Racketeering and Fraud, under the direction of Michael C. Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Region, and the and the Human Trafficking Task Force of the Western District of New York.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Updated June 12, 2020

Human Trafficking