Batesburg pair accused of trafficking, threatening immigrant workers
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - A federal grand jury in Columbia returned a multi-count indictment in connection with trafficking in seasonal agricultural workers.
Elizabeth Balcazar, 19, Enrique Balcazar, 35 – both of Batesburg – and Balcazar Nature Harvesting LLC have been charged with conspiracy to commit labor trafficking and fraud in foreign labor contracting.
The Balcazars also have been charged with confiscation of passports and immigration documents in connection with labor trafficking, and Enrique Balcazar has also been charged with two counts of labor trafficking.
The indictment alleges the pair forced victims to work excessive hours, failed to pay the victims their due wages and threatened deportation for those who did not work hard enough or produce enough. The indictment also alleges the defendants tried to restrain the victims by confiscating their passports and by carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm.
The indictment indicates there are multiple victims.
The Balcazars face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, plus court ordered-supervision to follow and a fine of up to $250,000 each.
“Those who exploit the system and abuse these vulnerable workers will find no refuge here in South Carolina,” said U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis. “Our office will utilize all available resources to bring such offenders to justice while rescuing and restoring victims in the process.”
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