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US Immigration

Posted 04/28/2010
(Page 1 of 4)
Pinoy couple charged

U.S. charges couple in scheme to hold Filipino workers in forced labor

MIAMI, April 28, 2010 - Sophia Manuel and Alfonso Baldonado Jr. were arrested Wednesday morning on charges arising from a human trafficking scheme to hold Filipino nationals in forced labor at various southeast Florida country clubs and hotels following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led investigation.

Manuel, 41, and Baldonado, 46, owners of Quality Staffing Services Corporation of Boca Raton, Fla., were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida. According to the indictment, Manuel and Baldonado conspired to obtain a cheap, compliant and readily available labor pool. The indictment details the defendants conspired to hold the workers in their continued service, for little or no pay, and housed them in substandard conditions without adequate food or drinking water.

From July 2006 through June 2008, the indictment alleged, the defendants and others held the Filipino workers in a condition of forced labor. That the defendants had no work or infrequent work for many of the Filipino workers making it impossible to repay their debts in the Philippines. That when told by the Filipino workers that their earnings were not enough to repay their debts in the Philippines, defendants responded that was not their problem.

From about November 2007 through December 2007 the charges alleges that defendants directed about 30 Filipino workers to sleep on the floor at their residence in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and garage until housing was located, men and women, side by side. From November 2007 through February 2008, the defendants allegedly forbade the Filipino workers to open the refrigerator except when tasked to cook; screamed at and scolded workers if they ate food from the refrigerator without permission. That defendants threatened Filipino workers at meetings that if the Filipino workers left the house, they will call the police or USCIS and the workers would be deported.

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