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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
04/15/2010

Bay Area woman sentenced to 5 years in domestic worker forced labor case

Defendant also ordered to pay over $123,000 restitution

OAKLAND, Calif. - A Bay Area woman convicted of forcing a Peruvian woman to work as her nanny and domestic servant has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay the victim more than $123,000 in restitution.

Mabelle de la Rosa Dann, 46, was sentenced Wednesday on multiple federal charges, including forced labor, unlawful use of documents in furtherance of forced labor, harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, visa fraud and conspiracy to commit visa fraud. The charges were the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Dann was convicted by a jury in October 2008 in the first human trafficking trial in the Northern District of California. During the trial, evidence showed Dann conspired with at least one other person to fraudulently obtain a visa for the victim and smuggle her into the United States from Peru in July 2006. Over the course of approximately 21 months, Dann forced the woman to cook, clean, and provide childcare in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Walnut Creek, Calif. Dann initially kept the victim working by falsely promising future payment.

Eventually, Dann confiscated the victim's passport and identification, telling her she would be falsely accused of theft if she fled. At no point did Dann pay the victim for her work. Ultimately the victim, who had never traveled outside of Peru and could not speak English at the time, escaped with the help of local residents and officials and parents at a local elementary school.

"Today's sentence reminds all of us of the Thirteenth Amendment guarantee that we cannot be forced to work," said U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello. "Each of us, including those who enter the country illegally, owns our own labor. My office cannot and will not tolerate the exploitation and deprivation of freedoms, including basic work freedom, of anybody in this country. Anyone with information about others involved in similar despicable conduct is encouraged to contact the police."

"We hope this sentence provides closure and some consolation to the victim, but the unfortunate reality is, people who are trafficked are often haunted by the emotional and physical trauma of that experience for the rest of their lives," said Mark Wollman, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in San Francisco. "That is why ICE is aggressively investigating these cases and striving to raise awareness about the issue. We want human trafficking victims to understand they have a voice and let them know that help is available if they come forward to report this crime."

Dann remains free on bond. The Court ordered her to self-surrender June 30. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken also ordered the defendant to pay $123,740.34 in restitution to the victim, consisting of $109,340.34 in back pay and $14,400 in future counseling costs.

Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking are encouraged to call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

This case is the result of an initial report by La Raza Centro Legal. ICE received substantial assistance with the investigation from the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service and the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

Andrew S. Huang and Joshua Hill are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted the case.