Paso couple arrested for human trafficking

March 30, 2010

By KAREN VELIE

A Paso Robles couple was arrested Tuesday morning by FBI agents, charged with smuggling Filipino nationals into the United States and forciing them to work at the four elder care homes the couple owns.

According to a federal affidavit, the indentured laborers “worked 24-hour shifts; did not receive regular days off; slept in hallways, garages and closets; and had their passports confiscated” by Max Morales, 44, and Melinda Morales, 46.

The Morales own four assisted living facilities in Paso Robles, including the Meadows, Meadowlark, Starling Residential Care and Irene’s Board and Care.

Investigators say the pair lured Filipino nationals from the Philippines with promises of legitimate work and a better life.

Max Morales lent Filipino nationals between $3,000 and $8,000 to pay a smuggling service as well as the cost of their air fare. Morales would charge his indentured servants interest on the money he had spent bringing them to Paso Robles.

Upon the arrival of his indentured servants, Morales would confiscate passports until debts were repaid. For more than a year, one caregiver worked unpaid for Morales while all of her wages, $1,000 per month, went to paying off her debt.

According to the affidavit, Morales ordered his caregivers to follow his rules:

–    Workers are not to talk to neighbors or the family members of residents.
–    Workers should not take public transportation because of police checkpoints throughout Paso Robles.
–    Workers are not to go against the Morales because they are powerful and wealthy people who could make trouble for their families.
–    Workers should lie to Social Service representatives and tell them that two caregivers worked with each six patients during the day when actually only one caregiver was available.

Federal agents were notified when two of the forced laborers confided their situation to family members of one of the residents.

Max and Melinda Morales were charged with knowingly and intentionally concealing, harboring and shielding illegal aliens within the United States. The charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of ten years in federal prison, per alien.


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12 Comments

  1. vnon says:

    There should also be an inquiry made into the care given to the residents of the various homes. While subjecting illegal and very possibly untrained workers to such treatment, the care for those confined to the home couldn’t have been much better.

    (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
  2. liberalgirl says:

    Well, this kind of goes with mkaney says. I know that if I could go somewhere where my possibility to succeed and give my family a better life, I would do it in a heartbeat. I would try to do it legally, but if I was unable to, I would do it any way I could, including working off the cost to get me there. Whether anyone else admits it or not, I bet you all would do the exact same thing.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
    • Cindy says:

      liberalgirl, and what do you think the owners of the country that we entered illegally would do? Do you think they would ignore the fact that we were there illegally sucking up the tax dollars of their citizenry, I doubt it. I suspect they would send a message loud and clear by locking you up for a few years and then giving you the boot.

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
      • liberalgirl says:

        Well, being as how my family was at stake, I would most definitely research and find out the best and most likely the safest place to go before I went, whether it be the US, Australia, Mars, the moon, etc. The way I see it is that the US was built on immigrant’s hard work from when this country was first formed. I also do agree that something needs to be done because it has gotten so far out of hand and everybody is so much an us against them mentality. Why is it o.k. to bail out all the banks while they still have enough $$ to go on luxury vacations and retreats right in the middle of their supposedly collapsing instead of funding immigrants into this country? I just don’t see it.

        (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  3. standup says:

    Sorry Mkaney but i disagree. There are already too many illegals in this country. Deport them wherever we can. We as a society cannot afford to provide healthcare and other expenses to these people. As far as the Morales’ go, give them maximum sentences to make an example of not to aide in bringing illegals into this country. The Morales’ were probably illegals at one time also.

    (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
    • mkaney says:

      But we as a society, CAN afford to bomb afghanistan back into the dark ages, build nuclear missiles capable of eliminating entire populations, bail out incredibly wealthy people in order to maintain the status quo, squander money on thousands of overpriced contracts and kickbacks, spend billions attempting to enforce prohibition laws even though we know it’s a paradoxical effort, and (LITERALLY) LOSE $9 billion dollars of CASH shipped on a pallet to Iraq by the Federal Reserve.
      http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/10/iraq_billions200710

      And you want to send WHO to jail?

      gotcha

      (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
  4. willie says:

    Most manipulated people in the rural or poor areas (willing to work even if its minial work) of another country are told that America is the land of “golden” opportunity to all people.
    The business that the Morales are in is very lucrative / profitable even if done legally.
    Doing it illegally increases control and eliminates overhead. They are as bad a predator lenders who want customers to fail so more interest can be added keeping them down in debt. The workers may not see it that way because it may be better than what they had before.

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
  5. Cindy says:

    Well mkaney, It seems to me that confiscating passports, falsely stating that the illegals could not take public transportation because of police check points all over Paso Robles and threatening the servants that their families can be harmed is kidnapping and indentured servitude. Add the fact that they were illegally here in this country, working at a job that an American can do and not paying any taxes and voila! Exactly what is your point?

    (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
    • mkaney says:

      There is no indication that taxes were not paid, and the article stated that they were told that they could make trouble for them, which is not the same as a physical threat…. The point about the public transportation isn’t necessarily false. I had a friend who was harboring an illegal alien who was constantly dodging various I.D. checks in Southern California. I was present during several incidents when DHS officers came on board a trolley and demanded IDs.

      So that aside, I won’t deny it, clearly one of fundamental differences in my viewpoint which much of the rest of my argument rests upon is that I am not a big fan of immigration laws.

      (-6) 10 Total Votes - 2 up - 8 down
  6. mkaney says:

    Ok this is probably not going to go over well but…

    The issue of understaffing and lying to Social Security about it is definitely a problem and hopefully a criminal violation. But that being said, and admittedly sidestepping the legality of the immigration…

    If I lived somewhere that I did not want to (not just in a preference sense but in a “this is a living hell” sense) and I had no or was unaware of any other really stellar, fair opportuntities to go to a better place and have some kind of opportunity, I would question the justice of laws which prevented me from making an agreement with someone to facilitate suuch a move. Even if the terms were less than favorable, if I found them to be bearable (at least more bearable than my current reality) then I should have the right to make such a decision. It seems ironic that someone else’s personal standards of morality should prevent me from rising above my circumstances even if I wish to do so against incredible odds and through backbreaking work and perserverance.

    This is the same sense of morality that concludes that if the shelter I can afford to build is not up to someone else’s standards, then better I should have no shelter at all.

    There are obviously issues with regard to the intentions of the person who is offering the opportunity… but the article does not say that he literally enslaved them, in fact it implies that after one caregiver worked for a year without wages (but not with out sustenance I presume), that they had succeeded in paying off the debt. I question whether indentured servitude was made illegal to serve a moral purpose rather than an exclusionary one.

    I also think that any law which seeks to imprison someone for even helping any other person (harboring and shielding illegal aliens), no matter what the reason, is pretty sad and any such precedence is guaranteed to ultimately undo the society which imposed it.

    (-2) 10 Total Votes - 4 up - 6 down

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