At least six undocumented immigrants and four employees of the ‘Sabor a México’ restaurants in the state of Georgia received treatment of slaves by their masters for two years, a federal indictment ensures.
Businessmen Efraín González, 40, and his wife Estela Judith González, 34, face 16 counts of conspiracy to commit labor trafficking, forced labor, and participate in migrant smuggling for financial gain.
The government lists ten victims of the couple, six of whom were in the country illegally.
The “Sabor a México” restaurants, one located in Fayetteville and another in Fairburn, catered primarily to customers of Mexican origin who live in the southern suburbs of Atlanta.
Credit: Google Earth
The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges that behind the dishes of Mexican gastronomy served there, a criminal scheme was hidden that took advantage of those who came to this country without papers. The crimes would have occurred from March 2021 to October 2022.
Estela Judith González pleaded not guilty, according to court documents.
“The indictment alleges that the couple used force, threats, coercion, and abuse to force the victims into forced labor…in addition to the fact that the couple engaged in alien trafficking for financial gain,” a statement from the Northern District of Georgia.
Credit: Google Earth
Only the crime of forced labor carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, warns the federal prosecutor’s office.
The government seeks to confiscate the equivalent of what they have obtained by exploiting their employees, either through what they have in their bank accounts or assets.
Regarding this case, the DOJ asks other victims of the González family to report them by calling the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office, which is 866-347-2423.
It is not the first time that this couple has run into trouble with the law. Both were arrested in mid-2018 for alleged sexual abuse and drug possession, according to information from the Peachtree City Police cited by the local newspaper. The Citizen.
Odilia Bergh, a police spokeswoman, told the same outlet that law enforcement officers came to the González home to see how a 26-year-old woman was doing. Upon entering the house, she reported that she had been raped and asked for help. When searching the property they found cocaine and marijuana.
The victim told the authorities that she was a co-worker of the González family.
The couple were taken into custody and transported to the Fayette County Jail.
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Labor exploitation of migrants in the US
Sweatshop labor continues to occur in this country despite harsh sentences handed down to abusive employers. In one such case, four undocumented Mexicans cooperated with authorities to jail those who paid them a pittance and mistreated them while they worked in a New York food business. It is estimated that more than $61,000 in salaries was stolen from them.
One of these immigrants ended up hospitalized after a violent altercation in which one of his bosses punched him in the nose, hit him on the head with a fire extinguisher and threatened to kill him, details an indictment filed in the Western District of New York. .
“The victim was taken to a hospital for medical treatment, where he was diagnosed with a fractured nose and a laceration to his head was stapled shut,” a statement said.
The owners and managers of the business, Roberto Montes Villalpando and Abraham Montes received their punishment in September 2021. The former was sentenced to 18 months of house imprisonment and the second to six months in prison and another six months he spent in custody at his home.
The government also investigated the case of a Guatemalan mother and her two teenage daughters who were forced to work several hours without a day’s rest at a Mexican restaurant and cleaning company in Northern California.
The three were subjected to near slave-like conditions, while they were threatened with reporting them to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) so that they could deport them, the criminal complaint describes.
Nery Martínez Vásquez and Maura Martínez were charged with labor trafficking, conspiracy to commit forced labor, and hiding illegal immigrants for financial gain. In May 2022 they were sentenced to three years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine. A judge also ordered them to pay $300,000 to seven victims.
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