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Pinoy couple jailed for exploiting Filipinos

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2010 (AFP) – A Florida couple was sentenced to several years in prison Friday for exploiting dozens of Filipino migrants they lured here with lies and forced to work under threat in service jobs in Florida, the Justice Department said.

Sophia Manuel and Alfonso Maldonado “pleaded guilty to conspiring to obtain a cheap, compliant and readily available labor pool by making false promises to entice the victims to incur debts to pay up front recruitment fees,” the department said in a statement.

Manuel, who was also found guilty of making false statements to obtain foreign labor certifications and visas under the federal guest worker program, was sentenced to six-and-a-half years behind bars, and Maldonado to four-and-a-quarter years.

Approximately 39 Filipino migrants were brought over by the Quality Staffing Services Corporation the couple owned, and “compelled… through threats to have the workers arrested and deported” to work in country clubs and hotels in southeast Florida, the department said.

“These defendants exploited vulnerable individuals for their own financial gain, depriving the victims of their civil rights,” said Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general.

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