I am happy to see this case has finally come to an end. I can tell you that six of the 39 survivors spoke and gave a powerful statement to the judge on how their lives were affected by the action of the traffickers. FCAHT staff is very proud of the survivors of this case as they have persevered and have been able to move on with their lives. All of them are happy and free!
The owners of a Boca Raton staffing company were sentenced to more than four years in federal prison on Friday after pleading guilty to charges they engaged in a human trafficking scheme.
Quality Staffing Services Corp. owner Sophia Manuel was given a 78-month sentence and co-owner Alfonso Baldonado Jr. was given 51 months.
They were indicted in April on charges they conspired to hold 39 Filipino nationals in service in country clubs and hotels in Southeast Florida.
Manuel also pleaded guilty to making false statements in an application she filed with the U.S. Department of Labor to obtain foreign labor certifications and visas under the federal H2B guest worker program.
Manuel and Baldonado previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to obtain a cheap, compliant and readily available labor pool by making false promises to entice the victims to incur debts to pay up front recruitment fees, a press release from the U.S. Justice Department said. Defendants then compelled the victims’ labor and services through threats to have the workers arrested and deported knowing the workers faced serious economic harm and possible incarceration for nonpayment of debts in the Philippines.
The workers’ passports were confiscated and they were forced to live in overcrowded, substandard conditions without adequate food or drinking water, according to court documents.
“These defendants exploited vulnerable individuals for their own financial gain, depriving the victims of their civil rights,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a press release. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute cases of forced labor where victims have been robbed of their freedom and dignity.”
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer stated, “Today’s sentencing reminds us that America remains a land of freedom and opportunity for immigrants, not of servitude and fear. Forced labor is illegal and we will enforce the laws that protect our immigrant communities from abuse.”
“Human traffickers target vulnerable victims, including minors, who desire a better life and end up being lured into a situation where they are deprived of their basic human rights,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. “These deplorable conditions will not be tolerated in this country and ICE will continue its commitment to rescue victims of this form of modern day slavery and arrest the traffickers that exploit them.”
Read more: Human traffickers sentenced | South Florida Business Journal