Two Admit to Egg Farm Labor Violations

     (CN) – A Guatemalan man and his Mexican co-conspirator pleaded guilty to charges that they lured vulnerable foreign workers, including teenagers, to work for cheap at Ohio egg farms.
     Aroldo Castillo-Serrano of Guatemala pleaded guilty on Monday to labor trafficking charges, one count of witness tampering and an immigration offense. Castillo-Serrano, 33, is the leader of a human trafficking ring, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
     His co-conspirator Conrado Salgado Soto, of Mexico, pleaded guilty on Aug. 5, the Justice Department also announced Monday.
     The indictment accuses the two men of recruiting workers from Guatemala by falsely promising them good jobs and an education 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,” a Justice Department press release states. “The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, de-beaking chickens and vaccinating chickens.”
     Castillo-Serrano and Soto allegedly threatened workers with violence and withheld their paychecks to make them work. They face up to 20 years in prison for each count of forced labor.
     Victims identified in the indictment include two adults and eight minors, some as young as 14 years old. Northern Ohio U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in a statement that the victims’ treatment will not go unpunished.
     “Our laws and a sense of common decency require that people not be treated like commodities,” Dettelbach said. “This defendant treated workers as if they were less important than the eggs that they would help produce. Now he is going to learn the hard way that in this nation, there is a big difference.”
     Charges are pending against a third suspect in the scheme, Guatemalan Ana Angelica Pedro Juan. Two others pleaded guilty to immigration offenses in the case, according to the Justice Department.
     “The defendants forced adults and children to work and live in deplorable conditions in exchange for false promises. These reprehensible actions are unacceptable and the FBI will continue to work with our partners to bring to justice those that engage in human trafficking,” FBI special agent Stephen Anthony said in a statement.
     The investigation, headed by the FBI’s Cleveland office and the Department of Homeland Security, is ongoing.

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