WASHINGTON – A Shasta Lake couple have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit forced labor, according to the US Department of Justice.
Nery Martinez Vasquez, 53, and Maura Martinez, 53, pleaded guilty on Tuesday.
The couple owned and operated the Latino’s restaurant and the cleaning business Redding Carpet Cleaning and Janitorial Services.
According to the DOJ, the couple convinced the victims, a Guatemalan relative and her two underage daughters, to come to the United States in August 2016.
The couple arranged for the victims to come to the United States on travel visas and had them stay on their visas and work in the restaurant and carpet cleaning business with little or no pay from September 2016 to February 2018.
“These defendants used the promise of America to lure the victim and her children to the United States in search of a better life, only to turn around and use that hope to exploit their dreams under cruel conditions,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
They also threatened to call the authorities and have the victims arrested for overstaying their visas if the victims did not do what the couple asked.
The Shasta Lake couple did not allow the children to go to school as they claimed the children would be arrested and expelled. The children were working for the company instead of going to school, the DOJ said.
The DOJ said the couple will be sentenced Nov. 8 and face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.