Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

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(Source: WOIO)

MARION, OH (WOIO) - A federal court today unsealed charges against a fourth defendant for participating in a labor-trafficking scheme that forced minors to work at egg farms in central Ohio.  The defendant, Pablo Duran Ramirez, 49, was arrested Saturday by Border Patrol as he attempted to cross the Mexico-U.S. border. Three other defendants have previously been convicted for participating in the scheme.

The charges were announced by Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio; Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division; and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI's Cleveland Division.

The indictment unsealed Wednesday alleges that Duran Ramirez contracted to provide labor for Trillium Farms while allegedly being aware that some of the workers had been trafficked.

Three other defendants have pleaded guilty to participating in the trafficking scheme. Those defendants admitted to recruiting workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school in the U.S.

The defendants then smuggled and transported the workers to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio, where they ordered them to live in dilapidated trailers and to work at physically demanding jobs at Trillium Farms for up to 12 hours a day.  The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, de-beaking chickens and vaccinating chickens. Eight minors and two adults were identified as victims of the scheme.

Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, the lead smuggler and primary enforcer, was sentenced to 188 months in prison. Ana Angelica Pedro-Juan, who oversaw the victims in Ohio, was sentenced to 120 months. Conrado Salgado-Soto, who arranged jobs for the victims, was sentenced to 51 months. The indictment unsealed today alleges that Salgado-Soto was a subcontractor hired by Duran Ramirez.

At sentencing of the other defendants, Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr found that they threatened workers with physical harm and withheld their paychecks in order to compel them to work.

Three additional defendants, including Duran Ramirez's son, pleaded guilty to encouraging illegal entry into the U.S. in connection to the scheme.

The trafficking and conspiracy counts that Duran Ramirez is charged with carry sentences of up to 20 years. The count of encouraging the entry of illegal aliens carries a sentence of up to five years.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cleveland Office, Mansfield Resident Agency; and the Department of Homeland Security.  The case is being jointly prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice.

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