CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Three siblings in Champaign were indicted by a federal grand jury this week. They’re being charged with conspiracy to commit forced labor and kidnapping.
A criminal complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois goes into detail about what the investigation found.
Since March 2021, local and federal officers have been investigating the smuggling, sexual assault and forced labor of two young girls, both from Guatemala.
Department of Justice officials said they were brought to Champaign under false promises of a better life and education.
Siblings Domingo Francisco-Juan, Catarina Domingo-Juan and Lorenza Dominguez-Castaneda are now being charged on nine counts with conspiracy to commit forced labor and kidnapping, and could face life in prison.
The first victim was brought to Illinois in 2016 when she was just 10.
The complaint said the victim was brought to the U.S. by Francisco-Juan. He told the victim to tell anyone who asked he was her father.
It goes on to say, after being encountered by Border Patrol, the victim was put in contact with Domingo-Juan, who Border Patrol was led to believe she was her aunt. The victim was sent to Domingo-Juan, a woman, the complaint said, she had never previously met and she was not related to.
Prosecutors said both victims were forced to work in factories like Kraft and Plastipak, hotels, and restaurants after school.
Until eventually being forced to skip school. Doing labor around Domingo-Juan’s home and working outside the home, but were never allowed to keep any of the money.
The investigation found Domingo-Juan used false documents that changed the age and legal status of the victim so she could work.
Prosecutors said Domingo-Juan would also physically abuse the first victim if something wasn’t done right. One time even going after her with a kitchen knife.
The complaint said the first victim after she was taken into protective custody by the Warren County Children’s Division. She had been taken to the hospital due to what was later determined to be a miscarriage that required surgery.
Investigators said both victims were isolated from family in the United States and Guatemala. And the girl’s families were told it would cost 10 to 15 thousand dollars for them to be released.
The Carol Merna, the CEO of the Center for Prevention of Abuse, said Illinois ranks in the top 10 in the country for human trafficking. And across the country, 1 in 4 victims is a child.
“It’s important for people to know that human trafficking happens everywhere. It’s the bitter truth,” she said. “If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, and we’ve all seen instances of trafficking. It’s that prevalent. It’s the second most prevalent crime in the world.”
There are certain things she said you can look for when it comes to trafficking. Someone traveling with no documents, someone with physical signs of abuse, like bruising or broken bones, someone confused about their location, and looking for tattoos or branding of some sort.