Federal prosecutors indicted five people accused of forcing 14 Mexican immigrants to work in farms in Wisconsin “by means of serious harm and threats of serious harm.”
Prosecutors said in a grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday that the workers “were victims of a severe form of human trafficking,” had their documents seized to prevent travel and were shielded from detection by being hidden “in buildings and other places.” The indictment provides scant details about the abuse the men suffered.
The indictment alleges the defendants recruited the immigrants, all Mexican men, and got them agriculture work visas under the pretense they would work in Georgia. Instead, prosecutors say the defendants brought them to Wisconsin farms, where they worked from July 2016 to Nov. 10, 2016.
The indictment doesn’t say where in Mexico the men were recruited and the victims are not named. Their current status is not mentioned in the court documents.
The indicted are: Saul Garcia, 49, Saul Garcia, Jr., 26, Daniel Garcia, 28, Consuelo Garcia, 45, and Maria Remedios Garcia-Olalde, 52. They face several charges, including forced labor, trafficking in peonage, slavery, and involuntary servitude. One of the men is also accused of trying to influence the testimony of two of the victims to the grand jury.
The defendants are in custody and don’t yet have attorneys.
“Trafficking another human being is a particularly vile crime,” Wisconsin U.S. Attorney Matthew Krueger said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting anyone who seeks to sell another person’s freedom.”
Prosecutors don’t say which farms the immigrants worked in.
As part of their prosecution, the federal government is attempting to seize 15 properties the defendants have in Georgia, as well as 15 of their vehicles registered in the state.