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A Guatemalan national was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra on Nov. 3 to 36 months in prison in the Southern District of Florida for smuggling an unaccompanied 15-year-old child into the United States for financial gain. The defendant was convicted by federal jury in July 2022.

According to the evidence presented in court, Julio Ruiz Chuta, 35, was familiar with the child victim and child’s family since they were from the same village in Guatemala. The defendant told the child’s parents that he could help the child obtain better educational and work opportunities in the United States versus the poor opportunities that existed in Guatemala. The parents believed that the defendant would sincerely help them since he had been to the United States before and he promised to care for their child.  Consequently, the parents allowed the child to travel to the United States and permitted the defendant to act as his guardian in the United States even though they were not related. After the child passed illegally through the southern border of the United States and presented himself to authorities, he was placed in a shelter. The defendant assured appropriate authorities that he would care for the child by enrolling the child in school and providing a place to live, and that he would not impose a debt upon the child. However, the defendant did impose a debt upon the child and his family after the child arrived in Florida. Further, the defendant charged the family interest and pressured them to pay, causing the child to work instead of attending school. The defendant also caused the family to leverage their own Guatemalan property to acquire a loan to repay the outstanding debt.

“This defendant exploited a child and the child’s family after falsely telling authorities that he would provide food, shelter, and better educational opportunities, all so he could make money off the child and his family,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice remains committed to vindicating the rights of vulnerable members of our society and will continue to prosecute those who cruelly exploit their labor and services.”

“It is shameful that situations like this involving children continue to occur,” said U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “The strain these types of cases put on a family is immeasurable. We will continue to go after these perpetrators with every resource available.”

Homeland Security Investigations and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Schiller for the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted the case. 

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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