Forks couple indicted on federal charges appear in court today

TACOMA — A Forks couple indicted on federal charges of holding a Guatemalan woman against her will, abusing her and forcing her to pick salal to repay a debt will appear in U.S. District Court today.

Antonia Marcos-Diego is scheduled for a detention hearing and her husband, Antonio Francisco-Pablo, is set for arraignment, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson.

Macros-Diego pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday, court records say.

Homeland Security Investigations agents from Port Angeles arrested Marcos-Diego on Friday, according to to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson.

Marcos-Diego and Francisco-Pablo were indicted in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on April 5 on charges of conspiracy of encouraging and inducing an alien to enter the United States and forced labor.

On the forced labor charge, Francisco-Pablo is facing aggravated sexual abuse.

Francisco-Pablo was convicted earlier this year in Clallam County Superior Court of raping the Guatemalan woman, pleading guilty in an Alford plea, according to court records.

She had told investigators he had raped her about five times and threatened to kill her if she fled or told anyone, according to court papers.

Francisco-Pablo accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty in January to third-degree rape-lack of consent, though he did not admit to committing rape.

This is called an Alford plea, in which a defendant in a criminal case pleads guilty but does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence.

He was originally charged with three counts of second-degree rape, one count of fourth-degree assault and one count of third-degree malicious mischief.

He wrote in his guilty-plea statement that he had already served more jail time than might be imposed on him if he were to accept the plea deal.

He was sentenced in February to 348 days in jail and ordered to serve 12 months in community custody.

Federal court papers say the couple first contacted the woman — Marcos-Diego’s relative — in spring of 2015 encouraging her to come to the United States for a better life.

Shortly after she was smuggled into the United States near Yuma, Ariz., around September 2015, U.S. immigration authorities stopped her and released her, pending further deportation proceedings.

She was required to wear an electronic bracelet and to report to immigration authorities.

When she arrived in Forks that September, the couple forced her to stay in a trailer, refused to let her go anywhere alone, were verbally abusive, kept all of her earnings and threatened to kill her or report her to immigration authorities, she told investigators.

The woman told investigators the couple would take all her money that she earned picking salal, a shrub commonly used by florists, and would charge her for every expense.

It would cost $10 each day for transportation to the forest, $50 per week for food, $200 for rent — which allowed her and her 9-year-old to sleep on the floor of the trailer — and $500 per ride to Seattle or Tacoma for meetings with immigration authorities, she said.

The abuse was discovered Nov. 28, 2015, when the alleged victim, who was walking along a ditch in the area of Dan Kelly and Colville roads, flagged down a passer-by.

She was crying and appeared emotionally distraught, her clothes were wet and she couldn’t speak English, records say.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].