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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

5 charged in forced labor/harboring conspiracy

DALLAS - Two defendants, who were arrested on Friday on felony charges related to a forced labor/harboring conspiracy, made their initial appearances on Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma C. Ramirez, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas.

The seven-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Dallas on Dec. 1, and unsealed Feb. 8, also charges another defendant who was arrested in Houston on Friday, as well as two remaining defendants who have not yet been arrested. The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Monday afternoon, defendants Nagham Hassan Burgotti, aka "Nagham Hasan Abdelfattah" and "Nagham Hasan Burguthi," 30, and her husband, Adam Mohammad Barguthi, aka "Adham Barguthi," 40, both residents of Plano, Texas, appeared before Judge Ramirez and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Defendant Mohammad Arafeh Abuawad, aka "Mohammad Arafeh Awad" and "Mohd Arafeh Abuawad," 40, was arrested by ICE HSI agents in Houston and remains in custody. His wife, defendant Lowana Mohammad Awad, aka "Lowana Albarguthi,"36, and defendant Huthaifa Ahmad Albarghuthi, aka "Huthaifa Barghuthi," 66, have not been arrested. All defendants hold dual U.S. and Jordanian citizenships.

The indictment alleges that all five defendants conspired together to obtain the services of S.H., a Sri Lankan woman, by threatening serious harm and abuse to cause S.H. to believe that if she did not perform such labor or services, that she would suffer serious harm. In addition, the indictment alleges that the five defendants conspired together to hide S.H. in their residence, and elsewhere, for their private financial gain, and that they kept S.H.'s passport and immigration documents to maintain her services and keep her from moving or traveling.

Each defendant is charged with one count of forced labor conspiracy and at least one related substantive count. If convicted, each of these counts carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each defendant is also charged with one count of conspiracy to harbor for financial gain and at least one substantive count. If convicted, each of these counts carry a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, each defendant is charged with one count of document servitude, which upon conviction, carries a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation which would require the defendants, upon conviction, to forfeit any property or proceeds they derived as a result of their respective offenses, including a residence located on Meadow Bend in Arlington, Texas, and businesses located in Plano, at 601 West Parker Road #117 and 4757 West Park Boulevard, #102.

An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Errin Martin and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Christopher Lomax, Northern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.