OTTUMWA, Iowa — A Wapello County man and woman have been found guilty on federal charges of labor trafficking for allegedly welcoming two immigrants from Micronesia to their home, then stealing their wages.
Nesly Mwarecheong, 46, and Bertino Weires, 51, each pleaded guilty this week in federal court to two counts of unlawful conduct with respect to forced labor. According to court documents, Mwarecheong and Weires encouraged two young men from their own home country of Micronesia to immigrate to the US with the promise of a job to help support family back home.
When the men arrived, though, they were made to work at a meat processing plant in Ottumwa. Mwarecheong and Weires then confiscated and kept most of the men’s pay – allowing them to keep just $20 per pay period. They also took the men’s passports and social security cards for them to perform labor and services.
Mwarecheong and Weires each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They have already been ordered to repay $70,000 in restitution to their two victims.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke prosecuted the case and released this statement after the guilty pleas were reached: “These defendants used the allure of jobs in the United States to entice the victims, and then exploited them and profited off their hard work. The Department of Justice remains committed to partnering with federal, state and local officials to investigate and prosecute human trafficking offenses, which have no place in our society.”
The case was investigated by Jeremy Tosh with the Ottumwa Police Department before it was turned over to federal prosecutors.