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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Bay Area woman found guilty of trafficking nanny from Peru

Conviction is first in human trafficking trial in Northern District of California

OAKLAND, Calif. - A Bay Area woman faces up to 75 years in prison following her conviction on federal charges stemming from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that revealed she smuggled a Peruvian woman into the United States and forced her to work as a live-in nanny and domestic servant.

After deliberating for a day and a half, the panel found Mabelle de la Rosa Dann guilty of forced labor, unlawful use of documents in furtherance of servitude, harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, conspiracy to commit visa fraud and visa fraud. The guilty verdict followed a one-week jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken.

Evidence presented during the trial showed that Dann, 46, of Walnut Creek, Calif., went to Peru in 2002 to recruit the victim. After failing to obtain a visitor's visa for the victim, Dann enlisted the assistance of two Peruvian nationals to smuggle the victim into the United States. For nearly two years, Dann forced the victim to cook, clean and take care of Dann's young children. During that time, Dann promised to pay the victim, but never did. In addition, Dann confiscated the victim's passport and led the victim to believe she would be falsely accused of theft if she fled. The victim eventually escaped, aided by local residents as well as officials and parents from a local elementary school.

"The Department of Justice cannot and will not tolerate the exploitation and deprivation of freedoms, including the basic work freedoms of anybody in this country," said U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello. "My office will do everything within its powers to protect every individual's civil rights - including the rights of those who are enticed to enter the United States illegally by the false promise of fair treatment and lawful employment and are then held in virtual human bondage under the threat that their undocumented status will be used to deport them if they complain. Anyone with information about others involved in similar despicable conduct is encouraged to contact the police."

"No person should ever be forced to live in a world of fear, isolation and servitude, particularly in a country that prides itself on its freedoms," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. "This case shows the level of calculation and cruelty exhibited by those who treat human beings as nothing more than a commodity. ICE is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves and we will continue to work to see that abusive practices like this do not go unchecked or unpunished."

Dann, who remains free on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 13, 2010, at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Wilken in Oakland.

ICE received the initial lead on the case from La Raza Centro Legal and was assisted in the ensuing 18-month investigation by the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew S. Huang and Joshua Hill with support from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.