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January 9, 2024Charleston, WV, United StatesLabor Exploitation, Human Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Charleston investigation leads to guilty plea for West Virginia man for his role in labor trafficking scheme

The subject kept a foreign national working at his business for more than 10 years without pay

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charleston, the West Virginia State Police, and the Parkersburg Police Department resulted in a West Virginia resident pleading guilty to his role in a labor trafficking scheme. Frederick Sayre Anderson, 63, of Parkersburg, pleaded guilty Jan.9 to concealing, harboring and shielding a noncitizen from detection.

“Frederick Anderson distorted U.S. immigration laws in order to victimize a foreign national for his own financial gain,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “He continued to exploit that woman for more than 10 years. His actions are equivalent to modern-day slavery. HSI Washington, D.C. will not allow such criminals to abuse the residents of our communities.”

According to the HSI-led investigation, in June 2010, Anderson signed and submitted a Petition for Alien Fiancé to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He admitted that he filed the petition to obtain a 90-day K-1 nonimmigrant visa so a foreign national could legally reenter the United States.

The foreign national was granted the visa, which required Anderson to marry her within 90 days. She arrived in the United States in January 2011.

The investigation revealed that Anderson picked the noncitizen up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then transported her to Parkersburg, West Virginia. She lived and worked at Anderson’s place of business until May 2021.

“Mr. Anderson’s criminal conduct facilitated the exploitation of an individual for more than a decade,” said U.S. Attorney Will Thompson. “While human trafficking is not charged in this case, it underscores the importance of learning how to identify, prevent and respond to coerced labor and other forms of human trafficking.”

During the investigation, Anderson admitted that the foreign national did not receive compensation for the work she performed at his place of business. He also admitted that they never married. The noncitizen’s visa expired in April 2011, making her ongoing presence in the United States unlawful.

HSI Charleston special agents visited Anderson’s place of business on at least three occasions. In May 2021, Anderson admitted that he took steps to prevent government officials from detecting her presence. One one occasion, he instructed her to hide behind the business and lied to the agents, falsely stating that she did not live inside the business, she had left months prior, and he did not know where she was.

Anderson’ s sentencing is scheduled for April 18. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

This investigation was conducted by HSI Charleston, the West Virginia State Police and the Parkersburg Police Department. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia is prosecuting the case.

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

HSI’s labor exploitation investigations focus on protecting our nation's critical infrastructures, reducing illegal employment and protecting employment opportunities for the country's lawful workforce. Labor exploitation cases target employers involved in criminal activity and worker exploitation, and often entail other forms of criminal activity such as noncitizen smuggling, document fraud, human rights abuses or other violations linked to the employment of unauthorized workers.

Combating all forms of human trafficking is a top priority for HSI — an estimated 28 million men, women and children are subjected to human trafficking worldwide, including here in the United States, each year — 80% are held in forced labor and 20% in sex trafficking. In the last fiscal year, HSI initiated more than 1,350 human trafficking investigations, assisted more than 750 victims, and arrested more than 3,650 traffickers. HSI is a federal leader in this fight and works with partners at every level to prevent this crime, identify and protect victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking integrates the efforts of 16 agencies and offices within DHS to carry out anti-trafficking missions. Traffickers use various forms of force, fraud and coercion to control and exploit victims, including imposing debt, fraudulent employment opportunities, false promises of education or a better life, psychological coercion, and violence or threats of violence. Various forms of social media, including dating apps, are also often used by traffickers to advertise to and recruit victims. Traffickers may also target those with drug addictions or introduce a drug addiction to facilitate coercion. Traffickers use withdrawal or the threat of withdrawal as a means of keeping individuals in trafficking situations.

HSI’s Victim Assistance Program is an integral resource to HSI investigations and is committed to informing all victims, including trafficking victims, of the rights and services accorded to them by the law. Individuals can anonymously report suspected human trafficking to federal law enforcement by calling the HSI Tip Line at 866-DHS-2423 (866-347-2423). The HSI Tip Line is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please keep yourself safe and do not intervene. Leave it to law enforcement.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.