TO DETAIN WORKERS IN CONDITIONS OF INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd, Jr. today announced that three Florida citrus contractors received lengthy prison sentences for conspiring to hold workers in involuntary servitude, harboring undocumented workers, interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, and using firearms during the course of a violent felony.
United States District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced brothers Ramiro Ramos, age 42, and Juan Ramos, age 34, to 12 years and 3 months imprisonment each. Their cousin Jose Ramos, age 45, was sentenced to 10 years and 3 months imprisonment and also received a $10,000 fine.
In addition, Judge Moore ordered defendants Ramiro and Juan Ramos to forfeit real estate, personal property - including vehicles - and over $3million in proceeds, because the jury determined that the property was used in furtherance of the conspiracy or was obtained as a result of the criminal enterprise.
"Today's sentencing demonstrates that human trafficking will not be tolerated in the United States," said Ralph Boyd, Jr. "Those who target and enslave the vulnerable will face stiff penalties."
On June 28, 2002, following a trial that spanned four weeks, a jury found defendants Ramiro Ramos and Juan Ramos guilty of conspiring to hold workers in involuntary servitude and harboring undocumented workers, The jury also found Ramiro, Juan and Jose Ramos guilty of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion, and use of a firearm during the course of a violent felony.
The evidence at trial established that the Ramiro and Juan Ramos worked as farm labor contractors under the company name, R&A Harvesting, Inc., and engaged in a conspiracy to hold migrant farm laborers in involuntary servitude and supply those laborers to citrus industry growers.
Witnesses at trial testified that Ramiro and Juan Ramos employed up to 700 workers, the vast majority of whom were undocumented, from January 2000 to June 2001. The defendants recruited workers by paying their transportation debts from Arizona to Florida. The workers were threatened with violence and told they could not leave until they paid a $1,000 debt to the defendants.
The evidence at trial also revealed that the defendants threatened individuals at gunpoint, and also violently attacked the owner and employees of a small, unlicensed van service that transported workers from Lake Placid, Florida to various locations at the end of the citrus growing season. The attack on the van operator and his employees resulted in the conviction on the charge of interfering with interstate commerce by extortion.
The investigation lasted two years and began after members of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, an advocacy organization that represents migrant farm workers in Florida, contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and alerted them to abuses by the defendants. A call to the Justice Department's Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force complaint line yielded additional information implicating the defendants in the assault on the van operator and his employees.
The Department of Justice extended its appreciation to the Mexican Consulate in Miami, the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, and the Catholic Charities of St. Petersburg for assisting the Department in locating and aiding the victims of these crimes, and to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its assistance in enabling the victims to access necessary services.
The FBI and the Border Patrol jointly conducted the investigation. Attorneys for the Criminal Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case, with the assistance of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The conspiracy pre-dates the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which increased criminal penalties and broadened prosecutors' authority in trafficking cases to reach modern forms of slavery. The defendants were sentenced in accordance with the laws in effect at the time of their offenses.
Individuals can report cases of human trafficking or slavery to the toll-free complaint line, at 888-428-7581. Information about the Department of Justice's anti-trafficking efforts can be found at www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/tpwetf.htm