U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello
Northern District of California
Convicted in First Human Trafficking Trial in Northern District of California
OAKLAND, Calif.– A federal jury convicted Mabelle de la Rosa Dann, yesterday, of forced labor, unlawful use of documents in furtherance of servitude, harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, conspiracy to commit visa fraud and visa fraud, United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced.
After deliberating for one and one-half days, the jury found that Dann had smuggled the victim, a Peruvian woman, into the United States and forced her to work as a live-in nanny and domestic servant. The guilty verdict followed a one-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken.
Evidence at trial showed that Dann, 46, of Walnut Creek, Calif., went to Peru in 2002 to recruit the victim. Unsuccessful in her initial attempts to obtain a visitor’s visa for the victim, Dann enlisted the assistance of two Peruvian nationals to smuggle the victim into the United States. For nearly two years, Dann forced the victim to cook, clean, and take care of Dann’s young children through false promises of pay, confiscating the victim’s passport and identification and conduct that led the victim to believe that she would be falsely accused of theft if she fled. At no point did Dann pay the victim for her work. The victim was eventually able to escape, with the assistance of local residents and officials and parents at a local Walnut Creek elementary school.
“The Department of Justice cannot and will not tolerate the exploitation and deprivation of freedoms, including the basic work freedoms of anybody in this country,” Russoniello said. “My office will do everything within its powers to protect every individual’s civil rights – including the rights of those who are enticed to enter the United States illegally by the false promise of fair treatment and lawful employment and are then held in virtual human bondage under the threat that their undocumented status will be used to deport them if they complain. Anyone with information about others involved in similar despicable conduct is encouraged to contact the police.”
“No person should ever be forced to live in a world of fear, isolation and servitude, particularly in a country that prides itself on its freedoms,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton. “This case shows the level of calculation and cruelty exhibited by those who treat human beings as nothing more than a commodity. ICE is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves and we will continue to work to see that abusive practices like this do not go unchecked or unpunished.”
Dann was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 4. She was charged with forced labor, unlawful conduct in furtherance of servitude, conspiring to commit and committing visa fraud, and harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain.
Dann remains released on bond pending sentencing. The sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2010 at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Wilken in Oakland. Dann faces a maximum of 20 years imprisonment for the forced labor count under 18 U.S.C. § 1589, five years imprisonment for the conspiracy to commit visa fraud count under 18 U.S.C. § 371, 10 years imprisonment for the visa fraud count under 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a), five years imprisonment for the unlawful conduct regarding documents in furtherance of servitude count under 18 U.S.C. § 1592, and 10 years imprisonment for the harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain count under 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) and (B)(i). Dann also faces, for each count, a maximum of three years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking are encouraged to call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. Anonymous calls are welcome.
Andrew S. Huang and Joshua Hill are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of legal assistants Cynthia Daniel, Alfonso Maritnez, Laurie Best, and Katie Turner and paralegals Patty Lau and Noble Hughes. The Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice provided legal assistance.
This case was initially reported to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement by La Raza Centro Legal. ICE then conducted an investigation for more than one and one-half years. Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor assisted in the investigation.
Case #: CR 08-00390 CW
A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.
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All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Jack Gillund at (415) 436-6599 or by email at Jack.Gillund@usdoj.gov.
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CONTACT: Jack Gillund