In a disturbing case of human trafficking and forced labor, several members of an Illinois family have pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping, forced labor, and conspiracy. The defendants, who are siblings, were involved in a years-long scheme to coerce two minors and another victim into working in their homes and at local businesses. The victims were brought from Guatemala to the United States under false promises of a better life and an education. Once here, they were isolated, subjected to physical and psychological abuse, and their communication with their families in Guatemala was severely restricted. This article highlights the seriousness of human trafficking and the commitment of law enforcement to prosecute such crimes.
Illinois Family Members Plead Guilty to Kidnapping, Forced Labor and Conspiracy
In a disturbing case of human trafficking, three Illinois family members have pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping, forced labor, and conspiracy. The case involves the coercion of two minors and one adult victim in a years-long forced labor scheme. The guilty pleas highlight the seriousness of human trafficking and the need for continued efforts to combat this heinous crime.
The defendants in this case, Lorenza Domingo-Castaneda, Catarina Domingo-Juan, and Domingo Francisco-Juan, are siblings who conspired to bring two minor victims from Guatemala to the United States. The victims were then forced to work in the defendants’ homes and at local hotels and factories. The defendants used false promises of a better life and education to gain the permission of the victims’ mothers for their daughters to travel to the United States.
Guilty Pleas and Charges
Lorenza Domingo-Castaneda pleaded guilty on September 8, 2023, to three counts of forced labor and two counts of conspiracy to commit forced labor. Catarina Domingo-Juan also pleaded guilty on August 18 to the same charges. Domingo Francisco-Juan had previously pleaded guilty on August 30 to forced labor, conspiracy to commit forced labor, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. These guilty pleas demonstrate the defendants’ acknowledgment of their crimes.
Victims and Coercive Tactics
The victims in this case were subjected to various coercive tactics by the defendants. The victims were isolated in the defendants’ homes, had their communications with their families restricted, and endured physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The defendants took advantage of the victims’ vulnerable positions, promising them a better life in the United States but ultimately subjecting them to forced labor and exploitation.
Statement from Assistant Attorney General
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division expressed the gravity of human trafficking, particularly the coercion of unaccompanied minors. She emphasized that human traffickers exploit vulnerable victims for their financial benefit and reaffirmed the Department of Justice’s commitment to identifying and prosecuting human traffickers.
Statement from U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris for the Central District of Illinois spoke out against human trafficking, emphasizing that it affects not only distant locations but also local communities. He highlighted the importance of prosecuting these crimes and encouraged community members to report any signs of exploitation to law enforcement.
Statement from HSI Special Agent in Charge
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald condemned labor trafficking, stating that those subjected to domestic servitude are stripped of their dignity and freedom. He praised the efforts of law enforcement in rescuing the victims and reassured the public that apprehending labor and human traffickers will always be a top priority for HSI.
Penalties and Sentencing
According to the plea agreements, the defendants face penalties of 20 years up to life in prison, as well as mandatory restitution. The final penalty will be determined by a federal district court judge, taking into consideration factors such as the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory considerations. These significant penalties reflect the serious nature of the crimes committed by the defendants.
Investigation and Prosecution
The investigation into this case was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the assistance of the Champaign Police Department, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, and Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Freres for the Central District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Kate Alexander of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case. Their collaborative efforts have resulted in the successful apprehension and prosecution of the defendants.
Reporting Human Trafficking
If you have any information about human trafficking, it is crucial to report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The hotline is available 24/7 and provides assistance to victims and gathers information to aid in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases. By reporting suspicious activities or signs of exploitation, you can play a vital role in combating human trafficking and helping victims.
For more information about human trafficking and the efforts of the Department of Justice to combat this crime, please visit the following resources:
These resources provide valuable information on identifying and reporting human trafficking, as well as offering support and resources for victims of this horrific crime. It is essential to educate ourselves and raise awareness about human trafficking to prevent future victimization.