Couple pleads guilty to forced labor charges; immigrant was held near Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — A Forks couple has pleaded guilty in federal court to holding, against her will, an undocumented, non-English-speaking Guatemalan woman who said her sister’s husband repeatedly raped her.

Antonia Marcos-Diego, 42, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Tacoma to one count of document servitude in furtherance of forced labor.

Her husband, Antonio Francisco-Pablo, 60, pleaded guilty Dec. 18 to one count of forced labor.

The couple lived west of Port Angeles, where they hired the woman to pick salal.

U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton scheduled sentencing for March 23.

Francisco-Pablo faces up to 20 years in prison while Marcos-Diego faces up to five years in prison.

Francisco-Pablo would face up to three years in prison for forced labor that includes aggravated sexual abuse under a U.S. Attorney’s Office recommendation contained in the plea agreement.

“The defendants similarly lured another relative to the United States from Guatemala, and also imposed a significant debt upon him after his arrival,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday in a prepared statement.

Francisco-Pablo would have charges of conspiracy to encourage and induce an alien to enter the United States and a third count of enforced labor dropped, according to the plea agreement.

Marcos-Diego would receive up to 18 months under U.S. Attorney’s Office recommendation.

She would have two charges of forced labor and one count of conspiracy to encourage and induce an alien to enter the United States dropped, according to the agreement.

Both defendants have agreed to make restitution to both victims in an amount to be determined at the time of sentencing.

“These defendants took advantage of a young non-English speaking relative, who was alone in a foreign country, and exploited her for their own enrichment,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said Friday in the statement.

The couple lured the woman, Marcos-Diego’s sister, from Guatemala in 2015, “falsely promising that they would provide her with a home, a job earning a lot of money, and a good life,” according to the statement.

The age of the woman, identified as E.M.D. in court documents, was unavailable.

Abused and threatened for about 10 weeks, she ran away from the couple Nov. 28, 2015, during an argument over a cellphone that she had secretly obtained, according to the probable cause statement.

She flagged down a motorist that same afternoon in the area of Dan Kelly and Colville roads west of Port Angeles near state Highway 112, crying, wet and walking in a ditch along the road.

The woman speaks Q’anjob’al, a Mayan language that has about 77,000 native speakers, according to the nonprofit SIL International, formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

The mother of four children, she arrived in Forks from Guatemala on Sept. 15, 2015, with her 9-year-old daughter.

The sister and brother-in-law, who said she could only bring the one daughter, made arrangements to get her illegally across the U.S.-Mexican border at Yuma, Ariz., with the aid of a “coyote,” or smuggler of immigrants.

The coyote told her it would cost $1,000, the victim said.

The mother and her daughter, caught by border agents after crossing into the U.S., were released pending deportation proceedings.

The mother was required to wear an electronic bracelet and report periodically to immigration authorities.

She and her daughter traveled to Olympia, where they were picked up by her sister and her brother-in-law.

They told her she owed them $6,000 for getting her into the country, she told authorities.

They also charged her for the cost of telephone calls they made to speak to her and the cost of picking her up.

They subsequently charged her for daily transportation to pick salal, made her pay for food, assessed her $200 rent a month to sleep on the floor of the couple’s trailer, had her pay for utilities, and charged her $500 for a ride to Seattle or Tacoma for the woman’s immigration hearings.

The couple kept the woman’s earnings as repayment for a debt that allegedly grew to $15,000 by the time she fled.

The couple was verbally abusive, pressured her to work and would not let her go anywhere alone.

The woman said her brother-in-law began sexually assaulting her shortly after she arrived, raping her five times, according to the probable cause statement.

“Francisco also threatened to kill her if she tried to run away or if she told anyone on him.

“He told her that he had killed before in Guatemala, and he could kill her too.”

“He threatened to drive E.M.D. into the woods and drop her off and the bears would get her.”

It was in the woods where he raped her, according to the probable cause statement.

She said she told her sister about the sexual assaults.

“Other than telling Francisco to stop, Antonia never did anything about it,” according to the probable cause statement.

“Shortly thereafter, rather than stop his advances, Francisco became more aggressive,” according to the statement.

“E.M.D. was scared, so she never told anyone about the rapes except her adult son in Guatemala.”

The woman’s sister told a detective she did not know about her husband’s sexual advances toward the woman and said her sister “had a reputation for making accusations against others.”

Francisco-Pablo said the couple spent a lot of money to get the woman into the country. He denied raping her.

Further information about the second victim was unavailable.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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