Defendants Michael Wood, 54, and Mary Wood, 46, of Mullica Hill, New Jersey, were sentenced yesterday in federal court to 20 months in prison and ordered to pay $46,320 in restitution to the victim in this case. A jury convicted both defendants of harboring an alien for financial gain and conspiracy to harbor an alien on June 6, 2017. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Special Agent in Charge Marlon V. Miller of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia announced the sentences.
According to evidence presented in court and other court documents, in August 2005, the defendants recruited a young Kenyan woman to care for their minor children in New Jersey and arranged for her to enter the United States illegally using a fraudulent British passport. The defendants required the victim to perform domestic work and childcare at their home seven days a week, paying her a mere $200 a month. To conceal the victim’s immigration status from authorities, the defendants prohibited her from leaving their house, except to walk the children to school, and instructed her not to talk to anyone outside of the house and defendants’ family. In June 2006, members of defendant Mary Wood’s family moved the victim to their homes, where they continued to harbor her and exploit her domestic labor, until the victim managed to leave in 2011.
“The defendants exploited the domestic labor of a young Kenyan woman, for minimal pay, circumventing immigration law,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “Today’s sentences demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to seeking justice for vulnerable individuals across the country and holding defendants who commit these despicable and unconscionable crimes accountable.”
“The sentencing of Mr. and Mrs. Wood emphasizes the severity of crimes that oppress victims of unconscionable domestic labor practices,” said Special Agent in Charge Marlon V. Miller, HSI Philadelphia. “Homeland Security Investigations vigorously pursues those who take advantage of vulnerable victims of forced servitude for their own personal gain. This case again underscores the importance of educating the public on these schemes, seeking justice for victims and holding violators accountable.”
Six additional defendants, including members of defendant Mary Wood’s family who harbored the victim from 2006 to 2011, previously pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and were sentenced for their roles in the continuing alien harboring and labor exploitation scheme. The defendants were also ordered to pay more than $233,000 in combined restitution to the victim.
The case was investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Anita Channapati and Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
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