Human traffickers behind bars after forcing undocumented immigrants into grueling work on Ohio farms, prosecutor says

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Updated: Jun. 19, 2020 at 1:52 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WOIO) - Pablo Duran Ramirez, 52, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $70,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of encouraging illegal entry for financial gain in September 2018.

According to court documents, Ramirez encouraged the illegal entry of Guatemalan nationals, including unaccompanied minors, into the United States, knowing that the individuals had been smuggled into the country through coercion or threat.

“Ramirez exploited the desperation of migrant workers and, in some instances, their children for his own personal financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman in a prepared statement. “Human trafficking can take many forms, and this sentence reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to combat this plague in every shape it takes.”

Ramirez, through his company, Haba Corporate Services, contracted to provide labor to Trillium Farms, knowing that the workers were unlawfully smuggled in, according to Herdman.

Three other defendants—Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, of Guatemala, Ana Angelica Pedro-Juan, of Guatemala, and Conrado Salgado-Soto, of Mexico—previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the same labor trafficking scheme.

Castillo-Serrano, the lead smuggler and primary enforcer, was sentenced to 188 months in prison; Pedro-Juan, who oversaw the victims in Ohio, was sentenced to 120 months; and Salgado-Soto, a subcontractor hired by Duran Ramirez, was sentenced to 51 months.

Those defendants admitted to recruiting workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school 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 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. During their sentencing, Senior United States District Judge James G. Carr found that they had threatened workers with physical harm and withheld their paychecks in order to compel them to work. Eight minors and two adults were identified as victims of the scheme.

Three additional defendants, including Duran Ramirez’s son, pleaded guilty for their roles in encouraging the workers’ illegal entry into the United States.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Cleveland Office, Mansfield Resident Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The case was jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice and Dana Mulhauser, formerly of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

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