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U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced defendant Thuy Tien Luong, 38, of Charlotte, North Carolina, to 15 years in prison and ordered her to pay $75,000 in restitution to the victim. A federal jury previously convicted the defendant of forced labor on Jan. 8, 2021, following a five-day trial.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendant compelled the victim’s labor for almost two years through a variety of coercive means. The defendant physically, emotionally and verbally punished the victim when she disobeyed the defendant or otherwise failed to perform the required labor to the defendant’s satisfaction. As an example, the defendant falsely claimed that the victim owed her a debt of $180,000, made her sign a debt contract, and threatened to go to the police if the victim did not continue to work to pay off the fabricated debt. The defendant beat the victim with nail salon tools, including cuticle clippers, nail files and brooms leaving the victim with scars, bruises and marks. She also threatened to ruin the victim’s reputation with her family by threatening to tell them information that would negatively impact the victim’s relationship with her family. The defendant’s scheme caused the victim to continue working for the defendant until a particularly violent assault led her to report the defendant to the Davidson Police Department.  

“This defendant used psychological coercion, debt bondage and violence to break down the will of one of her employees, exploit her vulnerabilities and force her to work long hours under threat of serious harm,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “There continues to be no place for such cruel conduct in our society, and the Department of Justice remains committed to identifying and eliminating human trafficking.”

“Human trafficking is human suffering and it has no place in modern society,” said U.S. Attorney Dena J. King of the Western District of North Carolina. “As our nation prepares to commemorate Juneteenth, it’s difficult to grasp that there are still people in our communities subjected to a life of servitude, compelled to work long hours for little or no pay, abused physically and mentally by those who ‘employ’ them. Traffickers who use their victims as commodities, take advantage of their needs and exploit their vulnerabilities for personal gain will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Luong’s egregious criminal conduct is a form of human trafficking that not only exploited our nation’s labor laws, but also subjected the victim to unspeakable harm, including physical and mental abuse,” said Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North Carolina and South Carolina. “Thankfully, HSI and its law enforcement partners have put an end to Luong’s activity and she is facing appropriately severe consequences. Pursuing human traffickers and protecting their victims remains a top priority of HSI.” 

Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney King and Special Agent in Charge Martinez announced today’s sentence. The case was investigated by HSI with assistance from the Davidson Police Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani M. Ford of the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Maryam Zhuravitsky of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. Trial Attorney Jessica Arco of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit assisted with sentencing and restitution in this matter.

Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

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