Sacramento – A Northern California couple pleaded guilty on Tuesday to forcing a Guatemalan relative and her two daughters to work long hours in poor conditions while threatening to keep girls out of school that they were deported. will be done.
Neri Martinez Vasquez and his wife, Maura Martinez, both aged 53 and from Lake Shasta near Redding, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit forced labour.
Federal prosecutors said the two are US citizens of Guatemalan origin, who promised their relative a “better life” when they arrived in the US in September 2016.
Instead, they forced family members to work longer hours than their visas and long hours for little or no pay at their restaurant, called Latino, and their red carpet cleaning and janitorial services. , which served businesses in the area, including several car dealerships.
Special Agent Sean Ragan, in charge of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office, said in a statement, “This case highlights how the dream of coming to the United States to start a new, promising life can turn into a nightmare. ” All three acted from a public point of view, he said, “yet they were imprisoned by fear and the lies told by their exploiters.”
As part of the plea settlement, prosecutors dropped charges filed in June alleging that the couple conspired to kidnap a 13-year-old girl from their Las Vegas home in 1997, then imprison her for nearly two years. held against her will, while Martínez Vasquez repeatedly raped her. and raped the girl.
Defense attorney Mark Reichl said punishment for forced labor carries up to 20 years in federal prison, but prosecutors also agreed to recommend a sentence of 6 1/2 years.
“We were able to find a compromise that everyone can live with,” Reichel said. “Going to trial in federal court is always an extreme gamble.”
Prosecutors said the couple told the woman and her daughters they could not leave until they paid off the full debt. He threatened to arrest them for overstaying their visas and told the daughters that they could not go to school as they would be deported.
Instead, the girls worked for the couple’s businesses until February 2018, where Martínez Vasquez would sometimes beat them with sticks when he was angry, prosecutors said.
He and his mother were forced to live in what prosecutors described as “a dilapidated, unheated trailer with no running water.”
Prosecutors did not disclose the girls’ ages, nor would they explain the current circumstances of the family.
The couple agreed to pay $300,000 in damages to the family and other victims as part of their plea agreement.