According to the Department of Justice, a business owner has been sentenced to 118 months in prison with three years of supervised release and to pay over $175,000 in restitution to his human trafficking victims. Bladimir Moreno pled guilty to conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and conspiracy to commit forced labor.
As detailed in a press release Moreno and other executives and managers at his company, Los Villatoros Harvesting LLC , recruited migrants under promises of lawful work paying a fair wage. His company then unduly charged the workers for obtaining their H-2A agricultural visas, took their passports, housed them in what is described as inhumane conditions, and paid the workers a de minimis amount. The company even kept migrants in the country after their visas had expired, the release said.
To keep workers in line, Moreno and his associates reportedly threatened them with deportation and false arrest, as well as charging them exorbitant fees to come to the the United States, which kept them in debt to the company.
“Forcing individuals to work against their will using abusive and coercive tactics is not only unconscionable but illegal,” said U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. “We will continue to work with our task force partners to combat human trafficking in all its forms, including prosecuting those who exploit vulnerable workers.”
Moreno’s co-conspirators received lesser sentences ranging from eight months of home detention and a $5,500 fine to 47 months in prison, presumably for their lesser culpability than the owner.