A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment yesterday adding the charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and kidnapping to the previous charges of conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, conspiracy to harbor aliens and harboring aliens.
According to court documents, Nery A. Martinez Vasquez, 52, and his wife Maura N. Martinez, 52, both of Shasta Lake, were naturalized United States citizens, originally from Guatemala. They owned and operated Latino’s, a restaurant, and Redding Carpet Cleaning & Janitorial Services, a cleaning company that serviced various businesses, including multiple car dealerships, in the Shasta Lake area.
The original indictment alleges that between September 2016 and February 2018, the defendants conspired to bring a Guatemalan woman and her two minor daughters to the United States using temporary visitor visas, harbored them after their visas expired, and forced them to work long hours at a restaurant and cleaning service for minimal to no pay. The indictment further alleges that the defendants imposed a debt on the victims to prevent them from returning to Guatemala; subjected them to physical, psychological, and verbal abuse; threatened them with arrest; and separated the woman from her daughters, all to compel their labor.
In addition, according to the superseding indictment, in January 1997, the defendants conspired to kidnap a 13-year-old girl. They made promises to the girl’s parents that they would bring her back in a week and told the girl that they would give her presents and money. They then drove her from her home in Las Vegas to their home in Redding, California, and held her against her will and the will of her parents for almost two years. They forced the girl to clean car dealerships and provide other labor, working long hours seven days a week without pay. Nery A. Martinez Vasquez is also alleged to have routinely sexually molested and raped the girl.
This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI. Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Avner Shapiro and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine T. Lydon and Tanya B. Syed of the Eastern District of California are prosecuting the case.
If convicted of the forced labor charges, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of harboring an alien, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of the kidnapping charges, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.