Paso Robles couple facing sentencing in slave labor case
January 24, 2012
Federal prosecutors have asked the court to sentence a Paso Robles couple to prison for harboring Filipino nationals who were smuggled into the United States to work under sub-standard conditions at the couple’s elder care facilities.
Maximino Morales, 45, and 48-year-old Melinda Morales each pleaded guilty in May to federal charges of harboring illegal aliens who worked as “slave labor” at the couple’s elder care facilities. The couple’s sentencing was delayed for a month on Monday.
Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins to sentence Maximino Morales to 21 months behind bars and his wife to 18 months and to have the couple pay restitution of at least $500,000 to the Filipino nationals who were not properly compensated for their work.
The Morales, both natives of the Philippines, operated four elder care facilities under the umbrella of Four M’s, Inc. They recruited Filipino nationals to come to the United States with promises of work as live-in caregivers.
According to their plea agreements, an associate in the Philippines helped the aliens obtain fraudulent visas that allowed them to travel to the United States.
After they arrived, “some of the aliens worked alone in 24-hour shifts…as caregivers at one of the Four M’s elder care residential facilities for less than minimum wage,” both defendants admitted in their plea agreements. “All of the aliens lived in the care facilities, and some of the aliens slept in a closet, on a sofa, and in a walled-off portion of an unheated, attached garage.”
The aliens’ pay was credited against the “debt” they purportedly owed, and the Filipino nationals were told that police or immigration authorities would be summoned if they attempted to leave.