Nearly a dozen immigrant workers were rescued from a forced labor ring in Northern California in late August.
The office of U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch says many of them lived in an industrial building in Hayward that lacked running water and was locked from the outside at night.
Prosecutors claim the immigrants worked at construction projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and were paid less than minimum wage or not at all.
At least seven people were freed from the building and others were rescued from a nearby house. They were taken in vans to shelters.
Federal agents and Hayward police raided the construction business to free undocumented immigrants from a smuggling and forced labor scheme, according to KPIX5.
‘It seemed like they were in construction, wearing orange jackets and all that,’ neighbor Jeremy Vega told KPIX5. ‘They were brought in on Hondas and so you would think, “Ok, they just got off work.”‘
The workers, who were all male, would be transported in the mornings to construction sites.
Job Torres Hernandez of Hayward was indicted on charges that he harbored immigrants living in the country illegally for commercial advantage.
Hernandez, 37, was arrested and charged with alien smuggling, transportation, and concealing or harboring aliens.
Officials say he had at least five people concealed on his property since mid-2015.
A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Hernandez on August 23 for harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain, says a news release quoting Stretch and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent in charge Ryan L. Spradlin.
According to the indictment, since at least July 18, 2015, Torres concealed, harbored, and shielded from detection people who were not in the United States legally and that he knew, or had reckless disregard for the fact that, they were not in the United States legally.
The indictment further alleges that Torres harbored these individuals, who were his employees, for the purpose of obtaining a commercial advantage and for private financial gain. The indictment charges Torres with one count of harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain, in violation of 8 U.S.C. §§ 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) and (B)(i).
Torres was arrested in Hayward and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu. At the hearing the government alleged that Torres paid below minimum wage to his workers. In addition, the government alleged that the warehouse where many of the workers lived was locked from the outside at night. The government represented in court that seven people were recovered from that warehouse during the execution of a search warrant.
The maximum statutory penalty for the crime is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. In addition, the court may order an additional term of supervised release, forfeiture, and restitution.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shailika Kotiya is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the HSI.