Maria Del Carmen Sanchez, age 69, and Apolinar Francisco Paredes Espinoza (aka "Pancho"), age 56, helped illegally bring 10 people from Mexico to Hartford beginning in September, the US Attorney for Connecticut said. Federal investigators arrested them on Wednesday, March 1.
Sanchez and Paredes charged each person between $15,000 and $20,000, a debt they would need to pay once in the United States. Often, the victims were forced to sign over the deeds to their property in Mexico to the smugglers as collateral, the prosecutor said.
The victims lived in Sanchez and Paredes' home on Madison Street in Hartford, where they were forced to work and pay exorbitant fees, interest, and living expenses. If they failed to make the payments, the alleged smugglers would threaten them and their families with violence, investigators said.
But the amount they owed was ever-increasing.
The prosecutor's office said that Sanchez is alleged to have told the victims that they would need to pay $30,000 with interest along with rent, food, gas, and utilities.
The accused smugglers gave them fake permanent residence cards and Social Security cards so they could find work in the area.
Sanchez and Paredes also forced them to work around the house or help Paredes with his job without compensation or a reduction to their debt, authorities said.
If the victims complained or failed to make their payments, Sanchez and Paredes would threaten violence, say they would turn them over to immigration authorities, or raise their interest payments, officials said. In one instance, Sanchez told one victim that she would go to the police and accuse him of trying to rape her, the prosecutor said.
Sanchez and Paredes are charged with:
- Conspiracy to smuggle, transport, harbor, and encourage or induce aliens to enter and reside in the US
- Conspiracy to commit labor trafficking
If found guilty, the duo faces potentially decades in prison.
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