Seattle – A 44-year-old Vashon Island, Washington resident was arrested yesterday on a superseding indictment charging him with ten federal felonies related to human trafficking in the form of forced labor, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jesus Ruiz-Hernandez, aka Christo Jesus Escobar Solares, was originally indicted in November 2022 for transporting, harboring, and bringing an alien to the United States for financial gain. The superseding indictment, returned this week, adds seven federal counts including two counts of forced labor and additional counts of transporting, harboring, and bringing an alien to the U.S. for financial gain.
“Undocumented people are particularly vulnerable to forced labor schemes because they believe they do not have the same basic rights as U.S. citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “In this case the grand jury found that Mr. Ruiz-Hernandez sought to enrich himself by forcing undocumented workers to labor for him, and that he benefitted financially by bringing undocumented workers to Western Washington.”
Specifically, the indictment states that in the spring of 2017, Ruiz-Hernandez used force, threats of force, and physical violence to force an adult victim to work for him (count 1). That count also alleges the victim suffered aggravated sexual abuse. Ruiz-Hernandez is charged with transporting that victim for financial gain (count 2), harboring that victim for financial gain (count 3), and bringing that victim to the United States for financial gain (count 4).
The superseding indictment also charges that in July 2018, and continuing until August 2021, a second victim was forced to work for Ruiz-Hernandez and was threatened with harm (count 5). That victim was also transported for financial gain (Count 6). The indictment also charges that the victim was harbored for financial gain (count 7) and was brought to the U.S. for financial gain (count 8).
Finally, Ruiz-Hernandez is charged with transporting and harboring a third victim for financial gain between May 2020 and August 2021(counts 9 and 10).
When Ruiz-Hernandez was arrested on the first indictment in November 2022, the Magistrate Judge determined there were conditions under which he could safely be released, and he had been out of custody until yesterday.
Following his arrest yesterday, law enforcement determined that he was harboring five additional workers who do not appear to have status in the United States. The investigation into how those non-citizens came to be employed by Ruiz-Hernandez is under investigation. After hearing argument, Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler determined there are no conditions under which Ruiz-Hernandez can be safely released in the community, and that he poses a risk of flight.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Trial in this matter is set for May 15, 2023, in front of U.S. District Judge James L. Robart.
Forced labor is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and up to life imprisonment if the jury determines that the offense involved aggravated sexual abuse. Transporting an alien for financial gain and harboring an alien for financial gain are each punishable by up to ten years in prison. Bringing an alien to the United States for financial gain is punishable by a mandatory minimum three years in prison and up to ten years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the Seattle Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham. Ms. Crisham is the Western District of Washington coordinator of our efforts to stop human trafficking.