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Labor trafficker sentenced for encouraging the illegal entry of Guatemalan nationals, including unaccompanied minors, into the United States
Justin E. Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced that Pablo Duran Ramirez, age 52, was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment, three years supervised release and ordered to pay a $67,232 fine after pleading guilty to one count of encouraging illegal entry for financial gain on September 17, 2018. According to court documents, Ramirez encouraged the illegal entry of Guatemalan nationals, including unaccompanied minors, into the United States, knowing that the individuals had been smuggled into the United States through coercion or threat.
“Ramirez exploited the desperation of migrant workers and, in some instances, their children for his own personal financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “Human trafficking can take many forms, and this sentence reflects the Justice Department’s commitment to combat this plague in every shape it takes.”
“Ramirez, in conspiracy with three other previously convicted individuals, coerced and assisted individuals to enter the United States illegally, many of them children, forcing them to live in deplorable conditions and work for little to no wages,” said Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Division. “These reprehensible actions are unacceptable. The FBI will continue to work with our partners to identify and bring to justice those who engage in human trafficking.”
Ramirez, through his company, Haba Corporate Services, contracted to provide labor to Trillium Farms, knowing that the workers were unlawfully present in the United States. He further admitted to knowing that some of the workers were unaccompanied minors who had been coerced or threatened to enter the United States and then housed in an isolated trailer park in Marion, Ohio. In 2013 and 2014, Trillium Farms paid the defendant’s company approximately $6 million for its labor services.
Three other defendants—Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, of Guatemala, Ana Angelica Pedro-Juan, of Guatemala, and Conrado Salgado-Soto, of Mexico—previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the same labor trafficking scheme. Castillo-Serrano, the lead smuggler and primary enforcer, was sentenced to 188 months in prison; Pedro-Juan, who oversaw the victims in Ohio, was sentenced to 120 months; and Salgado-Soto, a subcontractor hired by Duran Ramirez, was sentenced to 51 months.
Those defendants admitted to recruiting workers from Guatemala, some as young as 14 or 15 years old, falsely promising them good jobs and a chance to attend school in the United States. The defendants then smuggled and transported the workers to a trailer park in Marion, Ohio, where they ordered them to live in dilapidated trailers and work at physically demanding jobs at Trillium Farms for up to 12 hours a day. The work included cleaning chicken coops, loading and unloading crates of chickens, de-beaking chickens and vaccinating chickens. During their sentencing, Senior United States District Judge James G. Carr found that they had threatened workers with physical harm and withheld their paychecks in order to compel them to work. Eight minors and two adults were identified as victims of the scheme.
Three additional defendants, including Duran Ramirez’s son, pleaded guilty for their roles in encouraging the workers’ illegal entry into the United States.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Cleveland Office, Mansfield Resident Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The case was jointly prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice and Dana Mulhauser, formerly of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.