A federal jury today found Julio Ruiz Chuta, 35, guilty of smuggling an unaccompanied minor into the country for financial gain during a seven-day trial. Chuta was found not guilty of engaging in forced labour or seizing the child’s passport and other immigration documents by the jury.
The defendant knew the victim’s family because they were from the same Guatemalan community, according to the testimony given in court. The family turned to the defendant for assistance due to the restricted options in Guatemala and the defendant’s prior residence in the United States.
The boy’s parents gave the defendant permission to function as the boy’s guardian in the United States after the defendant pledged to take care of the youngster. The youngster was forced to work instead of going to school because the defendant placed a debt on him and his family, charged them interest, and put pressure on them to make payments. In addition, the defendant forced the family to surrender the title deeds they had in Guatemala as security for the unpaid debt.
“This defendant used a false promise of a better life in the United States to defraud a Guatemalan child and his family, and then callously caused the child to work long hours for his own financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is firmly committed to prosecuting perpetrators who lure unaccompanied minors into the United States only to turn around and exploit them for their own profit.”
“This is one of those cases that we constantly warn people about, the dangers of placing the life of a loved one into the hands of a human smuggler,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami. “The school age victim came here with hopes of living the American dream which quickly turned into a nightmare when Chuta forced the minor to work instead of attending school. HSI will continue to target organizations and individuals that exploit and profit off of innocent people.”
There is no set date for sentencing in this case. The maximum punishment for the defendant is ten years in jail.
HSI and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office both looked into this case. Trial lawyer Kate Hill of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Schiller for the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.