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Home Sections MiscellaNEWS Four Filipinos Busted for Human Trafficking and Forced Labor
Four Filipinos Busted for Human Trafficking and Forced Labor PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - MiscellaNEWS
Monday, 23 June 2008 01:23

The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Monday, June 23, 2008

Horrific. Deplorable. Shocking. Those words are from federal authorities in Los Angeles, spoken after learning of the sorry plight of several Filipinos rescued by the FBI, ICE and LAPD agents from two elderly-care facilities in Long Beach owned by a Filipino couple. The facilities were practically a modern-day slave prison. The victims recruited from the Philippines worked 24/7 and paid meager salaries with half going to somebody else's pockets as pay-off. Now the alleged Filipino exploiters are in federal custody. The alleged main culprit faces a statutory maximum sentence of 140 years in federal prison if convicted of all the charges.

 

Federal Grand Jury Returns Indictment: Four Filipinos Busted for Human Trafficking and Forced Labor

 

By Romeo P. Marquez

 

Editor's Note: The author is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.

A federal grand jury has indicted a Filipino couple based in Long Beach (California) and two others for forced-labor and human-trafficking violations, a justice department spokesman in Los Angeles has disclosed.

 

Named in the indictment are:  

  • Evelyn Pelayo, 51, a resident of Long Beach, who owns two elder-care facilities where the victims allegedly were forced to work, and husband Darwin Padolina, 56, also of Long Beach;
  • Rodolfo Demafeliz, 39, of the Philippines, who arranged for the entry of aliens to the United States fraudulently, often under the guise of participating in sport events; and
  • Rolleta Riazon, 28, of the Philippines, who was Demafeliz’s assistant.

Court documents claimed the four defendants recruited their victims from the Philippines with promises of employment in the United States. Upon arrival, however, they were obliged to work at the two residential elder-care facilities that Ms. Pelayo owned.

 

Half of the victims' meager salaries from the forced labor was withheld from them to repay the defendants for bringing them to the US, the indictment said.

 

PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
BREAKING NEWS -  Exclusive
Volume 2, Issue No. 16 / News Without Fear or Favor /

. . . A community service of San Diego's Philippine Village Voice (PhilVoiceNews@aol.com or at 619.265.0611) for the information and better understanding of the public.

Pelayo, Demafeliz and Riazon are in federal custody after their arrest in early April. Padolina was expected to surrender to federal authorities shortly.

 

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified six victims who were working or were found at the facilities when they were shut down.

 

According to the indictment, the victims were compelled to work 24 hours a day, everyday. Their meager salaries were not paid in full, with half being retained by Pelayo to pay off their smuggling fees.

 

 “Forcing human beings to work under these horrific conditions is simply intolerable behavior,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien in a press statement to the Philippine Village Voice.

 

 “Preventing modern-day slavery is a priority of the Justice Department, and these types of human trafficking cases will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.

 

Court documents alleged that the defendants recruited their victims from the Philippines with promises of employment in the United States. Upon arrival, however, they were obliged to work at the two residential elder care facilities that Ms. Pelayo owned.

For his part, Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, said: “The defendants named in the indictment are alleged to have lured foreign nationals to the US with promises of employment and a better quality of life, then turned a profit by overworking and threatening victims repeatedly.

 

"Members of the Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force will continue to investigate groups that engage in the buying and selling of people, and to educate our communities in how to recognize and report this deplorable crime,” he said.


Robert Schoch, Special Agent in Charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles, stated: “These new charges underscore the serious nature of the crimes alleged in this case. That people would be held against their will and forced to work under slave-like conditions in this day and age is frankly shocking.


"ICE is working closely with the FBI and its other law enforcement partners to ensure that those who engage in such unconscionable crimes are punished to the fullest extent of the law,”  he stressed.

 

Ms. Pelayo is charged with two counts of harboring illegal aliens, two counts of forced labor, two counts of seizing passports and two counts of human trafficking. If convicted of all the charges, she faces a statutory maximum sentence of 140 years in federal prison.

According to court documents, Pelayo procured potential workers in the Philippines with the promise of legitimate work in her facilities. Once the victims agreed, Pelayo contacted Demafeliz, who is a Taekwondo martial arts instructor.

After giving some training, Demafeliz would enter “students” into American Taekwondo tournaments as a ruse to obtain visas so they could enter the US.

Once in the US, according to the indictment, the victims were brought to Pelayo’s facilities, where Pelayo took away their passports and gave them strict instructions to not speak to family members of the elderly patients and to not fraternize with their co-workers.


Pelayo allegedly threatened victims by promising to falsely accuse them of crimes should they try to leave, and threatened to contact police and immigration officials who she said would deport the victims.


All four defendants are charged with conspiracy, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.


Demafeliz is charged with two counts of bringing an alien for financial gain, while Pelayo is charged with aiding and abetting him. Both defendants face a mandatory three-year sentence.


Pelayo is charged with two counts of harboring illegal aliens, two counts of forced labor, two counts of seizing passports and two counts of human trafficking. If convicted of all the charges, Pelayo faces a statutory maximum sentence of 140 years in federal prison. # # #

 

(This Breaking News is sent by Romeo P. Marquez, editor, Philippine Village Voice, San Diego, California. Mailing address: P.O. Box 2118, La Jolla, CA. 92038.)



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Last Updated on Monday, 23 June 2008 01:38
 

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