A 13-year-old girl, who was brought to the U.S. as a migrant, was forced to work at a Virginia laundry facility every night while going to school during the day, federal prosecutors say.
The facility’s manager, who she lived with, threatened to have her deported if she refused to work — and promised she would be killed upon returning to El Salvador, court documents show. The girl had to pay debts to the manager, $325 in monthly rent, as well as up to $300 each month for food.
She was one of many migrants forced to work at the business for years, prosecutors say.
Those in charge of the business, including Ana Patricia Landaverde, who is the manager, banned the 13-year-old from having friends or contacting anyone besides Magnolia Cleaning Services LLC in Williamsburg, Virginia, according to court documents.
When she did make friends with other students at school, Landaverde would beat her with a belt, prosecutors say.
Now Landaverde, 47, of Williamsburg, and three others are facing charges in connection with human trafficking people from Central America, profiting off their forced labor, money laundering and more, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced in a Dec. 9 news release.
The others charged include the facility’s owner and managing director Jeffrey Dean Vaughan, 64, of Williamsburg, co-owner and shift supervisor George Williams, 68, of Midlothian, and an unnamed defendant specified as FNU LNU in court documents, according to prosecutors. FNU LNU is accused of illegally supplying fake identification documents for the migrant workers.
McClatchy News contacted an attorney representing FNU LNU for comment on Dec. 9. The other defendants, Landaverde, Vaughan and Williams, do not have attorneys yet, a spokeswoman for the attorney’s office told McClatchy News on Dec. 9.
Since 2015, Landaverde, Vaughan and Evans “employed, transported, and harbored undocumented non-citizens” to work at Magnolia Cleaning Services and threatened “deportation or other legal consequences if they stopped working,” the 33-count indictment states.
Many workers lived at the laundry facility — with no kitchen, shower or a bathtub — and had to pay rent for such “accommodations,” according to the indictment. The facility lacked air conditioning in the summer and had no heat in the winter.
Those brought to the U.S. to work at Magnolia “incurred substantial debts” in connection with the costs to get them into the U.S., the indictment states.
These debts were used as “leverage” by Landaverde, Vaughan and Evans to keep the workers under their control, specifically by making them work long hours, according to the indictment. The employees were prevented from ever leaving.
In 2019, the 13-year-old girl and her adult sister illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico and encountered the U.S. Border Patrol, the indictment states. The adult sister said she was seeking asylum and was released from a detention center before traveling to Virginia to work at the laundry facility.
Months later, the 13-year-old girl arrived in Virginia and was transported to the laundry facility by Landaverde and Vaughan in Vaughan’s truck, the indictment states. At that point, the teen started living with Landaverde and Vaughan at their home with other employees.
Landaverde is accused of obtaining fake identification documents for the girl, listing her age as 17 instead of 13, and telling her she owed a $5,000 debt for the costs of bringing her to the U.S.
Another migrant who worked at the facility told investigators they watched as Landaverde would scream at the 13-year-old and pull her hair while ordering her to get back to work, according to the indictment.
The girl continued to work at the facility through April 2022 while Landaverde repeatedly threatened to have her deported if she didn’t work, according to investigators.
New mother forced to work long hours
Another forced worker, a mom who had an infant son, arrived in the U.S. illegally and was transported to work and live at Magnolia Cleaning Services in August 2021, the indictment states.
She “worked and lived inside the laundry facility with her infant son, sleeping on a cot, and preparing meals with an electric pan” and had to pay rent, according to the indictment. “No kitchen stove or shower facilities were available.”
The mother worked long hours as her baby stayed in his stroller “with his bottle tied to the chair,” the indictment states.
During one instance, the mother was getting ready to sleep on her cot with her baby when Landaverde demanded she get back to work while threatening to hit her with a large wooden ruler, according to the indictment.
Landaverde wanted the mother “to earn more money to repay her debt” faster and threatened to have her deported and take her baby from her if she didn’t work more, the indictment states.
Between 2018 through the first quarter of 2022, the laundry facility’s wage records showed 121 employees worked for the business with invalid Social Security numbers, according to the release. The records stated workers were paid $1.2 million during this time period.
Virginia’s Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, involving federal, state and local law enforcement officials, investigated the case, the release said.
In 2020, there were 10,583 human trafficking cases reported to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. Of those reported cases, 7,648 were involved sex trafficking and 1,052 involved labor trafficking.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
To report potential trafficking situations, you can contact the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or chat with the online hotline.