Crime & Justice

Paso Robles Filipino couple charged with smuggling people into US for forced labor

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Los Angeles Police Department cruiser.

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A Filipino couple from Paso Robles were each sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for smuggling undocumented Filipino immigrants into the United States and forcing them to work at elder care facilities under harsh conditions.

Maximino Morales and his wife, Melinda, each pleaded guilty last May to the charge of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.

After the immigrants were smuggled into the U.S., the Morales couple would force them to work under substandard conditions in four different nursing homes they owned for little and sometimes no pay.

Court documents say the Filipino workers often worked for 24 hours straight, sleeping in closets or garages at the nursing homes.

They were told their pay was withheld to cover costs incurred by the smuggling. If they tried to leave, workers were threatened with arrest or deportation.

In addition to their prison term, the defendants were also ordered to pay $600,000 in restitution to nine victims.