The leader of a human trafficking organization and a co-defendant were sentenced to prison today for their roles in luring Guatemalan minors and adults to the United States under false pretenses and then using threats of physical harm to compel them to work on egg farms in Ohio. The sentences were announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Carole S. Rendon of the Northern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.
Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, was sentenced to 188 months in prison and Ana Angelica Pedro-Juan, 22, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge James G. Carr of the Northern District of Ohio also ordered the defendants to pay a total of $67,230 in restitution, jointly and severally, to the victims.
Castillo-Serrano pleaded guilty on Aug. 24, 2015, to conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, witness tampering and alien harboring charges. Pedro-Juan pleaded guilty on Dec. 14, 2015, to conspiracy to commit forced labor.
According to documents filed in the case and admissions made in court in connection with the guilty pleas, the defendants and their associates recruited workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, by falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school in the United States. 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 for minimal amounts of money. The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, debeaking chickens and vaccinating chickens. Eight minors and two adults were identified in the indictment as victims of the forced labor scheme.
Castillo-Serrano recruited the victims, smuggled them into the United States, oversaw money transfers and issued threats to ensure compliance. Pedro-Juan falsely represented herself to government officials as a family friend of the minor victims in order to have them released to her custody. She also oversaw the trailers where the victims were housed and arranged for their wages to be transferred to co-conspirators in Guatemala and elsewhere.
“These defendants preyed on the hopes of vulnerable young workers, turning their dreams into a nightmare by exploiting their undocumented status and using fear to compel them to work long hours for minimal pay,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “This case demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to combating labor trafficking by holding traffickers accountable and restoring the rights, freedom and dignity of victims. I commend the strong partnerships that contributed to dismantling this human trafficking organization.”
The Northern District of Ohio is one of six districts selected as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. Designated ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor; international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.
“These defendants forced minors to work around the clock and live in inhumane conditions, while threatening them and their relatives,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rendon. “Today’s prison sentence underscores the severity of these human trafficking cases, but also should serve as a reminder that these cases happen all around us in plain sight.”
“These defendants preyed on the desire of the children and their parents for a better life by offering freedom on American soil only to be imprisoned in servitude,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony. “These actions cannot be tolerated. Law enforcement remains vigilant in detecting and disrupting these human trafficking rings."
A third co-defendant, Conrado Salgado-Soto, was sentenced on April 11, 2016, to 51 months in prison. Three more defendants, Conrado Salgado-Borbon, Bartolo Dominguez and Pablo Duran Jr., pleaded guilty to immigration offenses in connection with this case and were sentenced to six, 12 and 15 months in prison, respectively.
The investigation is ongoing. The case is being investigated by the FBI Cleveland Division’s Mansfield Resident Agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, the Marion Police Department and the Marion County Sherriff’s Office. The case is being jointly prosecuted by Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio.