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Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Miami-Dade County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office
Description: Miami, Florida criminal defense lawyer represented defendant charged with immigrant smuggling.
Following a seven-day trial, a federal jury found defendant Julio Ruiz Chuta, 35, guilty of smuggling an unaccompanied child into the United States for financial gain. The jury found Chuta not guilty of forced labor and confiscating the child’s passport and other immigration documents.
According to the evidence presented in court, the defendant was familiar with the child victim and his family since they were from the same village in Guatemala. Because of the limited opportunities in Guatemala and because the defendant had lived in the United States, the family turned to the defendant for help. Based on the defendant’s promise to care for the minor, the boy’s parents allowed him to travel to the United States and permitted the defendant to act as his guardian in the United States. The defendant imposed a debt upon the boy and his family, charged them interest and pressured them to pay, causing the boy to work instead of attending school. The defendant also caused the family to hand over the deed to property they held in Guatemala as collateral for the outstanding debt.
“This defendant used a false promise of a better life in the United States to defraud a Guatemalan child and his family, and then callously caused the child to work long hours for his own financial gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice is firmly committed to prosecuting perpetrators who lure unaccompanied minors into the United States only to turn around and exploit them for their own profit.”
“This is one of those cases that we constantly warn people about, the dangers of placing the life of a loved one into the hands of a human smuggler,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami. “The school age victim came here with hopes of living the American dream which quickly turned into a nightmare when Chuta forced the minor to work instead of attending school. HSI will continue to target organizations and individuals that exploit and profit off of innocent people.”
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled in this matter. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
This case was investigated by HSI and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Schiller for the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
Outcome: Defendant was found guilty.