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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
12/09/2009

Minister and wife charged with human trafficking, immigration violations

Couple allegedly enticed victim to travel to the U.S. to force her to work as their housekeeper and nanny

ATLANTA - An Ellwood, Ga., couple was arrested on Wednesday on charges of conspiracy, forced labor, document servitude - confiscating someone's passport and visa - and harboring an alien for financial gain following a joint U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and FBI investigation.

Juna Gwendolyn Babb, 54, and Michael J. Babb, 53, were arrested by ICE and FBI agents. Their investigation revealed that between March 2005 and February 2007, the couple allegedly conspired to compel the victim to work by enticing her to come to the U.S. from the Kingdom of Swaziland, Africa. The couple falsely promised her a lucrative, short-term opportunity to provide catering services at the wedding of a Babbs family member.

After the victim arrived in the United States, the couple allegedly conspired to harbor her so she would work as a housekeeper and nanny in their home.

The Babbs confiscated the victim's passport and return airline ticket, and told her that she owed them a debt for the costs of her travel to the U.S. The couple allegedly compelled the victim's labor by using the debt that they claimed the victim owed them, and by threatening her with arrest by ICE once her tourist visa expired.

The Babbs, allegedly required the victim to clean the homes of their friends and associates, assist in their construction business, and work long hours every day of the week, for which the victim was grossly underpaid on those few occasions she was paid for her labor and services.

"The defendants in this case trafficked in a human being, using the victim's desire for a better life to lure her into a situation where she was deprived of her basic human rights," said Kenneth Smith, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Atlanta. "Many people are unaware that this form of modern day slavery still occurs in the United States. The victims can be domestic servants, sweat shop employees, day laborers or workers in the sex industry who are lured here by the promise of prosperity and forced to work as indentured servants. ICE is committed to giving them the help they need to come forward as we work to end human trafficking with vigorous enforcement and tough penalties."

ICE works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human trafficking. ICE accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide, and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify, rescue and provide assistance to trafficking victims.