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Nursing Home Owner Gets 5 Years for Running ‘Modern-Day Slavery’

Philippine News, Posted: Oct 27, 2009

LOS ANGELES -- A businesswoman in Southern California was sentenced to almost five years in prison for illegally recruiting Filipinos and forcing them to work at her health care facility for the elderly, reports the Philippine News. Evelyn Pelayo, 52, of Long Beach was sentenced Monday, after pleading guilty in March to charges of “forced labor and unlawful conduct.”

Prosecutors and the FBI said Pelayo conspired with others to facilitate the illegal entry of Filipinos and their employment once they arrive in the United States. Pelayo is the owner of three homes in Long Beach -- one in which she resides, and two others, where she operated elderly care and boarding facilities for patients with various ailments. She was arrested at her residence last year and held at Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles.

An FBI statement said Pelayo entered a agreement in federal court, admitting she paid a co-defendant $12,000 to smuggle two illegal aliens into the U.S. from the Philippines and then forced the two to work at her elder care homes after confiscating their passports and threatening to turn them over to authorities if they attempted to escape. Her husband, Darwin Padolina, 56, had also pleaded guilty to harboring and concealing a third illegal alien for private financial gain. Padolina admitted that he concealed the alien for 10 years while the person worked as a domestic servant in his home, the FBI said.

Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, stated: “Evelyn Pelayo practiced a modern-day form of slavery, coercing employees to work in deplorable conditions for unfair wages. The Civil Rights Division will remain vigilant in finding and prosecuting those who prey on foreign nationals in this manner.”

According to the court documents, Pelayo recruited potential workers in the Philippines, promising them jobs in her elder care facilities. Once the victims agreed, Pelayo contacted a Taekwondo martial arts instructor, who would enter the aliens in Taekwondo tournaments in the U.S. and obtain visas for them as a ruse to bring them into the country.

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