BREAKING NEWS!! Modern Day Slavery Right before Our Eyes: A Minister and his Wife Plead Guilty to Human Trafficking-Related Offenses

| July 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

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A Georgia minister and his wife pleaded guilty today in federal court to felony offenses related to a scheme to force labor on a young woman from Swaziland, a Kingdom in Southern Africa.

Juna Gwendolyn Babb, 56 and her husband Michael Babb, 54 of Ellenwood, GA pleaded guilty to harboring of an alien for financial gain and misprision of a felony.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This case reminds us that modern day slavery is occurring in our communities.  This young woman believed that she was traveling to the United States for a brief visit to help with a wedding. Instead, she was forced to work for the defendants for more than two years.  It is especially disturbing that the victim was exploited by a minister and his wife.”

According to the indictment, court information and U.S. Attorney Yates Juna Babb visited the Kingdom of Swaziland in March of 2005. She then invited the victim, who was at the time a 29-year-old cook, to travel to the United States to cater a family wedding.

When the victim arrived in the U.S., there was no wedding and she was harbored as a housekeeper in the Babb’s home for the financial gain of Juna Babb from 2005 to 2007. She was also kept away from detection by law enforcement and even threatened with the debt that Juna said she owed for her travel to the United States.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the FBI and ICE-HSI.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin said, “Human Trafficking, while taking on many forms, consists primarily of those who prey on the vulnerabilities of others for personal gain. That was, in fact, the case in this matter as a young woman from Swaziland was being forced into labor and was unsure of who to turn to for help.  The FBI continues to aggressively pursue all allegations of human trafficking matters and is proud of the role that it played in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Michael Babb, who is also a minister knew of his wife’s illegal activities and failed to notify the authorities as soon as he found out. He also covered up his wife’s crime by denying that the victim worked as the defendants’ housekeeper to special agents of the FBI.

Juna’s offense of harboring an alien for financial gain carries a maximum penalty of ten years incarceration, while Michael’s offense of misprision of a felony for concealing his wife’s criminal conduct and lying to federal agents carries a maximum penalty of three years incarceration.

The defendants have agreed to pay a total of $25,000 in restitution to the victim for her unpaid labor. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for October 6, 2011, at 3 p.m.

“Few crimes are more shocking than the trafficking of human beings in this country,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Atlanta. “No one should have to live in a world of isolation and forced servitude. Together with our federal, state and local partners, ICE HSI is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”

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