Three people were charged Thursday with smuggling Guatemalan minors into the United States and forcing them to work at egg farms in Ohio. The charges were revealed in an indictment unsealed Thursday.
Also as part of the 15-count superseding indictment, a fourth person was charged with harboring illegal immigrants.
Indicted are: Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, 33, of Pecos, Texas; Conrado Salgado Soto, 52, of Raymond, Ohio; Ana Angelica Pedro, 21, of Columbus and Juan Pablo Duran Jr., 23, of Marysville, Ohio.
According to the FBI, the defendants and their associates smuggled workers as young as 14 or 15 from Guatemala to the United States, falsely promising them that they would be able to attend school in the United States.
The defendants transported the minors 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.
The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, de-beaking chickens, and vaccinating chickens.
The defendants also threatened workers with physical harm and withheld their paychecks in order to compel them to work. The indictment lists eight victims under the age of 18 and two adult victims.
Each of the 11 trafficking counts and the witness tampering count carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Each count of harboring illegal aliens and lying to the FBI carries a sentence of up to 5 years.
Officials with Trillium Farms say the charges involve a third-party contractor, not employees of the farm itself.
Chuck Renken, director of human resources with Trillium Farms released this statement:
"Caring for our employees, doing the right thing and abiding by employment laws is our obligation and our responsibility, and we expect the same standards to be held by outside companies we employ for contracted services. When federal officials made us aware of a possible employment issue with one of our contractors, we immediately cooperated and assisted in the investigation. That work led to the swift identification and same-day rescue of the employees believed to be working against their will. Our contract with the company was terminated by Trillium Farms, and the company is no longer working for us."