Press Statement
U.S. Department of Justice
Oakland, CA
April 15, 2010

Joseph P. Russoniello, United States Attorney
Northern District of California

Defendant Also Ordered to Pay Over $123,000 Restitution

Mabelle de la Rosa Dann was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison and ordered to pay $123,740.34 restitution for forced labor, unlawful use of documents in furtherance of forced labor, harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, conspiracy to commit visa fraud and visa fraud, United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced.

In the first human trafficking trial in the Northern District of California, a federal jury convicted Dann on Oct. 8, 2009, after a week-long trial and a day and a half of deliberations. During the trial, evidence showed that Dann conspired with at least one other person to fraudulently obtain a visa for the victim and to smuggle the victim into the United States from Peru in July 2006. Over the course of approximately 21 months, Dann compelled the victim’s labor, forcing her to cook, clean, and provide childcare in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Walnut Creek, Calif. Dann initially kept the victim working by falsely promising future payment. Eventually, Dann confiscated the victim's passport and identification, subjected the victim to humiliating and degrading conduct that led the victim to believe that she would be falsely accused of theft if she fled. At no point did Dann pay the victim for her work. Although Dann attempted to limit the victim’s contact with others in the United States, the victim, who had never traveled outside of Peru and who could not speak English at the time, eventually escaped with the assistance of local residents and officials and parents at a local elementary school.

Dann, 46, formerly of Walnut Creek, a Peruvian native, was charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on February 4, 2009. She was tried and convicted of all five charges contained in that indictment.

“Today’s sentence reminds all of us of the Thirteenth Amendment guarantee that we cannot be forced to work. Each of us, including those who enter the country illegally, owns our own labor,” U.S. Attorney Russoniello said. “My office cannot and will not tolerate the exploitation and deprivation of freedoms, including basic work freedom, of anybody in this country. Anyone with information about others involved in similar despicable conduct is encouraged to contact the police.”

“We hope this sentence provides closure and some consolation to the victim, but the unfortunate reality is, people who are trafficked are often haunted by the emotional and physical trauma of that experience for the rest of their lives,” said Mark Wollman, special agent in charge of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in San Francisco. “That is why ICE is aggressively investigating these cases and striving to raise awareness about the issue. We want human trafficking victims to understand they have a voice and let them know that help is available if they come forward to report this crime.”

Dann remains free on bond. The Court ordered her to self-surrender on June 30, 2010. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken following a jury trial on five counts involving the commission of forced labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1589; conspiracy to commit visa fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 371; visa fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a); unlawful conduct regarding documents in furtherance of forced labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1592; and harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain count, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) and (B)(i). Judge Wilken also sentenced the defendant to a three-year period of supervised release following imprisonment and ordered $123,740.34 in restitution to the victim, consisting of $109,340.34 in back pay and $14,400 in future counseling costs, with $5,000 due within 90 days and re-direction of any child-support back payments from the defendant’s ex-husband to the victim.

Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking are encouraged to call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

This case is the result of an initial report by La Raza Centro Legal to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which conducted an international investigation of this case for over one and a half years. Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of State and the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor assisted in the investigation.

Andrew S. Huang and Joshua Hill are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuted the case with the assistance of legal assistants Cynthia Daniel, Alfonso Martinez, Laurie Best, Kathleen Turner, and Jeanne Carstensen, paralegals Patty Lau and Noble Hughes, and victim witness coordinator Deb Kusber. The Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice provided legal assistance.

Jack Gillund