A criminal group have used casinos to launder millions of ill-gotten funds obtained through the exploitation of Central American laborers who were forced to work in inhumane conditions across farms in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, and elsewhere court documents have revealed.
According to the documents, the gang was a “modern-day slavery” operation which used the money it received from the immigrants to purchase real estate and gamble at numerous gambling establishments to launder the money.
Federal prosecutors were able to levy charges against at least 24 suspects after several US agencies, including Homeland Security, the FBI, the US Department of Labor and other authorities assisted in what was dubbed “Operation Blooming Onion.”
They face numerous charges, to name human smuggling and trafficking, money laundering, and fraud. The gang operated in a highly organized manner, prosecutors explained, exploiting legal loopholes to mask their tracks and remain undetected for years. One of their offenses is the exploitation of the H-2A visa program.
Unimaginable Violence and Exploitation in the Free World
The gang showed workers no leniency and responded with violence to requests for improving living conditions. At least two people died in captivity, prosecutors said, depicting squalid living conditions with limited fresh water, light or room.
The victims were forced to dig onions with their bare hands and then paid less than 20 cents per each bucket that had been gathered. The suspects held the victims at gunpoint on numerous conditions and threatened retribution on family members back in their homes should they fail to comply.
One of the victims was raped and beaten for well over a year, prosecutors said with the entire operation reportedly making $200 million from its exploitation of human labor.
The Casino Connection
While showing little mercy to their victims, gang members had no problem enjoying the spoils of their labors. Based on the court documents, Patricio TCO members (named after the 70-year-old ringleader) were frequenting gambling establishments.
According to Casino.org, between 2015 and 2020 one of the crime group’s members, Delia Ibarra Rojas, cashed in at least $9.5 million at one specific casino. Another member, Juana Ibarra Carrillo, made deposits worth over $2.7 million in the same five-year period. Commenting on the arrests and apprehension of the culprits, Southern District of Georgia acting US attorney David Estes condemned the false premise the gang had used to cajole their victims, using “the American dream” as the lure.