Man gets 15 years for human smuggling, virtual slave labor

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The ringleader of a scheme that smuggled teens into the U.S. and kept them as virtual slaves while forcing them to work at an egg farm and live in run-down trailers was sentenced to just over 15 years in prison Monday.

Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, a Guatemalan who is in the U.S. illegally, will be deported once he’s served the prison term, a federal judge in Toledo said in sentencing the man.

Many of the victims were teens — the youngest was 14 — and some were his relatives, prosecutors said.

Investigators said Castillo-Serrano, 33, lured the boys and young men with promises of enrolling them in school and finding them good jobs.

He made the victims’ families sign over deeds to their property in Guatemala to pay for transporting them while some were plucked out of custody at the Mexican border, prosecutors said.

The teens and young men were forced to work at the egg farm in central Ohio near Marion and had to turn over most of their earnings, said prosecutors, who concluded there were about 35 victims in all.

Federal agents in the investigation raided a dilapidated trailer park two years ago where 10 young Guatemalans had been living with no heat and little food.

Castillo-Serrano apologized before he was sentenced. He pleaded guilty last year to forced labor conspiracy, forced labor, witness tampering and encouraging illegal entry into the country.

“I give a big apology to the victims who are members of my family, my neighbors and who are from my same town,” he said through a translator.

One of the young men brought to the U.S. said at a court hearing in April that Castillo-Serrano threatened to kill his father after the teen complained about being forced to work.

Trillium Farms, which produces more than 2 billion eggs per year at various farms around central Ohio, said it was unaware of what was happening at its farm. It hasn’t been charged.

Ana Angelica Pedro Juan, 22, also was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge James Carr to 10 years in prison for her role in the smuggling operation. She pleaded guilty to forced labor earlier this year.

Prosecutors said she helped recruit the teens, watched over them at the farm and controlled their paychecks.

Four other defendants already had been sentenced.

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