24 indicted on allegations of human smuggling and forced labor in Southern Georgia

Crime & Safety

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Two dozen defendants have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges related to labor trafficking in Southern Georgia farms. The operation was busted after a multi-year investigation.

This smuggling and trafficking operation illegally imported Mexican and Central American workers into horrid working conditions on South Georgia Farms.

More than 100 victims were rescued in the Southern District of Georgia thanks to an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force known as Operation Blooming Onion.

The indictment suggests that this has been going on since at least 2015 in the following Georgia districts: Tattnall, Bacon, Atkinson, Coffee, Toombs, and Ware.

The Southern District of Georgia listed the 24 indictments in USA v. Patricio et al. below:

  • Maria Leticia Patricio, 70, of Nichols, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; two counts of Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Daniel Mendoza, 40, of Ruskin, Fla., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Nery Rene Carrillo-Najarro, 56, Douglas, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; 14 counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Antonio Chavez Ramos, a/k/a “Tony Chavez,” 38, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; four counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • JC Longoria Castro, 46, Vidalia, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; four counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Victoria Chavez Hernandez, 38, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Enrique Duque Tovar, 36, of Axon, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; nine counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Jose Carmen Duque Tovar, 58, of Axon, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; nine counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Charles Michael King, 31, of Waycross, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Stanley Neal McGauley, 38, of Waycross, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Luis Alberto Martinez, a/k/a “Chino Martinez,” 41, of Tifton, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Delia Ibarra Rojas, 33, of Lyons, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Juana Ibarra Carrillo, 46, of Alma, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Donna Michelle Rojas, a/k/a “Donna Lucio,” 33, of Collins, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Margarita Rojas Cardenas, a/k/a “Maggie Cardenas,” 43, of Reidsville, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and Tampering with a Witness;
  • Juan Fransisco Alvarez Campos, 42, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Rosalvo Garcia Martinez, a/k/a “Chava Garcia,” 33, of Haines City, Fla., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and Tampering with a Witness;
  • Esther Ibarra Garcia, 63, of Dade City, Fla., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Rodolfo Martinez Maciel, 26, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; three counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Brett Donavan Bussey, 39, of Tifton, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; four counts of Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and Tampering with a Witness;
  • Linda Jean Facundo, 36, of Tifton, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Gumara Canela, 34, of Alma, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; 14 counts of Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering;
  • Daniel Merari Canela Diaz, 24, a citizen of Mexico illegally present in the United States, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; and,
  • Carla Yvonne Salinas, 28, of Laredo, Texas, charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud; Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor; and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering.

The organization fraudulently used the H-2A visa program. A visa that promises a temporary stay in the country for agricultural jobs who can work under a sponsor.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia David Estes says these sponsors often used various methods of  intimidation to keep the operation under wraps.

“The organization exploited these workers by, among other things, confiscating the workers’ passports to prevent them from leaving or contacting law enforcement,” Estes said. “Under payment, using violence and threats to control the workers.”

Estes also says they illegally profited more than $200 million since the start of the scheme.

The investigation continues in other various parts of the country as there are believed to be roughly 70,000 victims.

The 24 indicted from Southern Georgia face charges such as committing mail fraud, engaging in forced labor, and money laundering.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories