Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Man Sentenced for Human Trafficking and Alien Smuggling

From the PR Newswire:

Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division Grace Chung Becker and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Don DeGabrielle announced that Walter Corea was sentenced today for his role 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. U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore sentenced Corea to 180 months in prison and further ordered that he, jointly with his co-defendants, pay $1,715,588 in restitution to the victims.

"These defendants used false promises and threats of harm to lure and coerce vulnerable women and girls into conditions of forced labor and servitude," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Becker. "The Department of Justice is committed to vigorously prosecuting human trafficking cases such as this one."

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.

"Some measure of justice has been meted out today," DeGabrielle said. "Any who think of smuggling and enslaving fellow human beings should count this very real cost of doing business."

Corea previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hold persons in a condition of peonage and to illegally and knowingly recruiting, harboring and transporting persons for labor and services. Peonage is a condition of involuntary servitude imposed to extract repayment of an indebtedness. He has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bring, harbor and transport known illegal aliens for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain.

Corea lured young 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 high-priced drinks to male customers. The women were subjected to numerous threats of harm to themselves and family members in order to compel their servitude, and some suffered sexual assaults at the hands of the defendant and his co-defendants.

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