Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two Men Sentenced for Human Trafficking & Alien Smuggling Charges

From PR Newswire:

WASHINGTON, United States- Two brothers, Victor
Omar Lopez and Oscar Mondragon, were sentenced for their roles in a scheme to smuggle Central American women and girls into the United States and hold them in a condition of forced labor in bars and cantinas in the Houston area, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Grace C. Becker and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Don DeGabrielle.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore sentenced
Lopez to 109 months in prison followed by three years of probation and ordered that he, jointly with his co-defendants, pay $1.7 million in restitution to the victims. Mondragon was sentenced to 180 months of imprisonment and was ordered to pay, jointly and severally with his co-defendants, over $1.1 million of the total of over $1.7 million in restitution awarded in the case.

In all, eight defendants have been convicted in connection with this
scheme to compel the victims into service in restaurants, bars and cantinas in the Houston area, using threats to harm the victims and their families if they attempted to leave before paying off their smuggling debts.

Both Lopez and Mondragon previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to
hold persons in a condition of peonage; to illegally recruiting, harboring and transporting persons for labor and services; and to conspiring to bring, harbor, and transport known illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. Peonage is a condition of involuntary servitude imposed to extract repayment of an indebtedness.

Lopez and Mondragon lured Central American women to the United States
with promises of good jobs. However, once the young women arrived, they were forced to work in the bars and cantinas of the defendant and co-defendants selling alcoholic drinks to male customers. The women were subjected to numerous threats of harm to themselves and family members in order to compel their servitude.

"Defendants Victor Omar Lopez and Oscar Mondragon were members of an
international conspiracy that lured young women from Central America to Texas on false promises of a better life and then betrayed that promise by holding these women in a condition of forced servitude in restaurants and bars in Houston," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker. "This is a despicable crime that harms all of society, and the Department of Justice will continue to aggressively work to prosecute human traffickers."

Read the full article

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