California Couple Pleads Guilty In Forced Labor Case Involving Family From Guatemala

September 13, 2021

The owners of a restaurant and janitorial company in Shasta Lake took a plea deal Monday in a case that charged them with luring a family from Guatemala to serve as forced laborers and earlier kidnapping a 13-year-old girl from her Las Vegas, Nevada, home.

Nery A. Martinez Vasquez and his wife, Maura N. Martinez, both 53, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit forced labor and could face a prison term of up to 20 years and fines of $250,000. The couple also agreed to pay $300,000 in restitution, and Senior U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb set sentencing for Nov. 8.

The couple originally was charged in a June 2019 indictment in federal court in Sacramento with conspiracy to commit forced labor and other counts. Prosecutors alleged they enticed a relative in Guatemala to bring her two minor daughters to the United States in 2016 with promises of providing them a better life and educational opportunities.

Instead, the couple forced the three — who are not identified by name — to work through February 2018 and threatened them with arrest if they went outside unaccompanied or tried to attend school, court documents say.

“The defendants unlawfully employed Person One and her older daughter, Person Two, at their restaurant and cleaning service and required them to work upwards of 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for meager pay, far below minimum wage,” court documents say. “The defendants further required Person Three, Person One’s younger daughter, to work several hours a day, seven days a week, at the restaurant for no pay.”

Read the full story by Sam Stanton on The Sacramento Bee.

Tags: ,