FORKS — Two Forks residents have been sentenced in federal court for labor trafficking and forced labor involving two family members from Guatemala.
Antonio Francisco-Pablo, 60, a Guatemalan, was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for one count of forced labor.
Antonia Marcos-Diego, his former wife, also from Guatemala but a U.S. citizen, was sentenced to one year of probation for document servitude in furtherance of forced labor.
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton also ordered the couple to pay $18,950 in restitution to the two victims.
Authorities said the couple threatened and exploited Marcos-Diego’s Guatemalan sister, 38, and her stepbrother, an adult male whose age was unavailable Monday, after luring them to the U.S. to pick salal in the West End in 2015 and 2016, the sister for three months and the stepbrother for 12 months.
The woman and her stepbrother separately entered the U.S. illegally in 2014 and 2015, were released pending deportation proceedings and travelled to the couple’s Calawah Way mobile home park residence 1½ miles east of Forks to work harvesting the floral shrub.
“After each victim arrived at the defendants’ residence, the defendants told them they owed an inflated debt for the cost of bringing them to the United States,” according to U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes’ sentencing memorandum.
Francisco-Pablo, who had his political asylum petition to stay in the U.S. denied in 2010, had entered an Alford guilty plea to third-degree rape-lack of consent of his sister-in-law, from whom DNA was taken that linked Francisco-Pablo to the assault.
Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Christopher Melly sentenced Francisco-Pablo to 348 days for the sexual assault, which occurred in fall 2015.
A motion to withdraw the plea and dismiss the charge is set for 9 a.m. today, but Francisco-Pablo’s lawyer, Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender, said Monday he will be withdrawing the motion.
The Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit of the Seattle U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the trafficking and forced-labor charges.
Authorities said the woman and her 9-year-old daughter lived with the couple.
“Like her mother, she did not know the language or her surroundings and was helpless to remove herself or her mother from the situation,” according to Hayes’ sentencing memo.
The girl and her mother slept on the floor for $200-a-month rent deducted from the wages she was told she would receive.
Also deducted was $50 weekly for food, $10 weekly for transportation to the forest to pick salal, and $6,000 she was told, when she arrived, that it cost the couple to bring her to the U.S.
The abuse included the couple not letting the woman go anywhere alone and threatening to kill her if she tried to leave.
She alleged Francisco-Pablo raped her five times, at least once while they were picking salal, and that he told her “that part of her job was to be with him,” according to county Sheriff’s Detective Amy Bundy’s probable cause statement.
It is “virtually certain” Francisco-Diablo will be deported following his prison term, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the sentence meted out Friday.
Information on the deportation status of the woman and her stepbrother was unavailable Monday.
“What these defendants did to their victims amounts to modern-day slavery and will not be tolerated,” Hayes in a statement Friday.
The woman was interviewed by state Corrections Officer Gerald Brown for a presentence investigation for the rape conviction.
“He has made my life hell,” she told Brown.
“Even though it was only three months, it felt like eternity.”
The woman told authorities she fled on foot Nov. 28 from where they were picking salal west of Port Angeles after an altercation with them about a cellphone that a family member had smuggled to her that the couple tried to take away.
Crying and distraught, she was picked up by a passing motorist near the intersection of Dan Kelly Road and Colville Road south of state Highway 112, later telling a sheriff’s deputy she had been sexually assaulted earlier that week.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.