September 10, 2023 – Lorenza Domingo-Castaneda, 34, a Guatemalan national, pleaded guilty on Friday in the Central District of Illinois to three counts of forced labor and two counts of conspiracy to commit forced labor. On Aug. 18, co-defendant Catarina Domingo-Juan, 37, also pleaded guilty to three counts of forced labor and two counts of conspiracy to commit forced labor. A third co-defendant, Domingo Francisco-Juan, 43, previously pleaded guilty on Aug. 30 to forced labor, conspiracy to commit forced labor, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
According to court documents, the defendants, who are siblings, conspired to bring two minor victims from Guatemala to the United States to work in their homes between December 2015 and March 2021. The defendants compelled the victims to provide domestic services within the homes and to work outside the homes at local hotels and factories. The defendants used false promises of a better life and an education to gain the permission of the victims’ mothers for their minor daughters to travel to the United States to live with the defendants. Domingo-Castaneda and Domingo-Juan also compelled a third victim to work in their homes and outside their homes at local businesses. The defendants isolated the victims in their homes, restricted their communications with their family in Guatemala and subjected them to physical, verbal, and psychological abuse, among other coercive means.
“Human trafficking — particularly compelling the labor and services of unaccompanied minors — cannot be tolerated.” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Traffickers deftly use the promise of America to lure adults and children into the United States from thousands of miles away, only to then turn around and reveal their promises were false as part of a coercive scheme to compel their labor. The Justice Department remains steadfast in identifying and prosecuting human traffickers who exploit vulnerable victims for their own financial benefit.”
“Human trafficking is a scourge that affects not only far-flung locales but our local communities as well,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris for the Central District of Illinois. “Traffickers prey on vulnerable victims – including children – bringing them to the United States and entangling them in forced labor schemes. The Central District of Illinois is committed to prosecuting these crimes and further asks community members who are aware of any signs of such exploitation to pass that information on to law enforcement.”
“Labor traffickers only care about one thing — money,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago. “Those subjected to domestic servitude are robbed of their dignity and freedom. Thankfully, these victims were rescued thanks to the efforts of law enforcement. Apprehending labor and human traffickers who take advantage of our most vulnerable and rescuing those exploited will always be a top priority for HSI.”
In accordance with the plea agreements, the defendants face penalties of 20 years up to life in prison as well as mandatory restitution. A federal district court judge will determine any penalty after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
HSI with the assistance of the Champaign Police Department, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service and Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office investigated this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Freres for the Central District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Kate Alexander of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. Information on the Justice Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.Source: DOJ Release