On Monday August 24, 2015, Guatemalan immigrant Arodolo Rigoberto Castillo-Serrano pleaded guilty to charges of forced labor conspiracy, forced labor, witness tampering, and encouraging illegal entry into the United States. His sentencing date is yet to be set.
Prosecutors say that Castillo-Serrano orchestrated a pipeline of teenagers from his home country who had fled to the United States because of increasing unrest there. Once they were in US custody, Castillo-Serrano found conspirators to pose as friends and family and take them to Ohio where they were forced to work on egg farms in slave-like conditions.
The teen boys – as well as two young men in their 20s – were said to be brought into the United States as unaccompanied minors, because law states that they cannot be turned away at the border if they’re trying to escape dangerous situations at home. Once under federal protection, Castillo-Serrano and his conspirators filed false paperwork with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, and then instead of being given protection they were taken to the farms by drivers known as “coyotes”. Coyotes are very widely used in human smuggling, especially across the US/Mexico border, and are generally known by nicknames in order to remain unidentifiable.
Once at the egg farm, the teenagers were forced to work long hours, live in decrepit trailers, and hand over what money they earned as payment for their passage through the US. In some cases, the parents of the boys had already signed over the deeds to their properties in Guatemala to help pay for the operation, and they had been given a promise that the boys would be enrolled in school for their troubles. Not only that, but prosecutors in the court documents for the case said the boys were threatened with violence if they complained or stepped out of line in any way.
The egg farms in question are owned by Trillium Farms, which is responsible for producing over 2 billion eggs per year out of their various farms in central Ohio. They relied on a contractor to source workers, so they have not been charged in the case as they had no idea of what was going on. The contractor involved was considered a conspirator, so has been charged along with Castillo-Serrano.
However, it’s currently unknown what will happen to the 10 boys in the case, as federal officials won’t comment on their fate. A spokesperson for the US Attorney’s office in Cleveland, Michael Tobin, only says: “we view them as victims who are witnesses in our case, so we’re making sure they get the services they need”.
For further inquiries or if you would like help with regard to the status of any unaccompanied minors you know who are in the United States or in Federal custody, please contact Lyttle Law Firm either through the website or by calling 215-512-5225.