Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Second Ukrainian Brother Sentenced to the Maximum for Human Trafficking Operation

PHILADELPHIA—Stepan Botsvynyuk, 38, a Ukrainian national, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for his role in a family-run human trafficking organization. Botsvynyuk and his brothers smuggled young Ukrainian immigrants into the United States and forced them to work for little or no pay. Stepan, Omelyan, Mykhaylo, Yaroslav, and Dmytro Botsvynyuk were indicted on a charge of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Stepan and Omelyan were convicted October 12, 2011. Two brothers are awaiting extradition from Canada and the third, Dmytro, is a fugitive.

Today’s sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, FBI Special Agent in Charge George C. Venizelos, and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge John P. Kelleghan.

The Botsvynyuk brothers were charged with conspiring to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity by operating a human trafficking organization between the years 2000 and 2007. The brothers operated cleaning services with workers who were smuggled in from Ukraine and kept in conditions of peonage and forced labor through physical violence and threats of physical violence. Evidence presented at trial showed the brothers recruited workers from Ukraine, promising them good jobs making $500 per month and another $200 or $300 extra for expenses. The workers were told that room and board would be provided to them and that the defendants would handle all of the travel expenses with each worker expected to earn $10,000 after two or three years of working in the U.S. Rather than arranging for the workers to travel to the United States legally, however, the brothers had obtained only tourist visas to Mexico. Once in Mexico, the Botsvynyuk Organization had operatives who coached the workers on how to enter the United States illegally by wearing American-style clothing and stating “U.S.” at the Mexican/United States border.

While some of the workers entered the United States, others were taken into custody by U.S. immigration officials, where they remained for almost two months. Once released and provided with immigration documents and summonses to appear for immigration hearings, the Botsvynyuk Organization transported them to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, either by bus or by plane. Once in Philadelphia, the immigration documents and return court dates were confiscated from the workers. The workers were put to work cleaning large chain storest, such as Target and Walmart, at night, as well as smaller stores. Throughout their employment with the brothers, the workers lived up to five people in one room, slept on dirty mattresses on the floor, and were never paid. They were told that they had to work for the brothers until their debts, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, were paid.

The brothers used physical force, threats of force, sexual assault, and debt bondage to keep the victims in involuntary servitude. The brothers also threatened violence to the workers’ families still residing in Ukraine. Two female workers testified at trial that Omelyan Botsvynyuk brutally raped them on several occasions. Other victims testified at trial that they were struck and beaten if they attempted to quit or leave the employ of the Botsvynyuk brothers, or if they questioned the lack of payment or the broken promises made in Ukraine. Workers were struck in the presence of other workers, which served as a warning to the rest. After some workers escaped, Omelyan Botsvynyuk resorted to extorting the workers’ families in Ukraine, threatening them with mutilation, rape, and death if the workers did not return to work or pay their debts. Omeylan Botsvynyuk was sentenced yesterday to life in prison plus 20 years.

“The convictions and sentences in this case are a testament to the department’s commitment to pursuing justice on behalf of victims and survivors of human trafficking,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. “The record number of labor trafficking cases we have prosecuted in recent years reflects the strength of the partnerships the Department of Justice has built with federal, state, local, and international law enforcement agencies, as well as non-governmental victim advocates. The outstanding results in this case demonstrate the power of these partnerships to combat human trafficking and transnational organized crime and to restore the rights and dignity of human trafficking victims.”

The case was investigated by the Joint FBI Organized Crime/ICE Human Trafficking Alien Smuggling Task Force Federal. Assistance was provided by Pennsylvania State Police, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Toronto Police Department, German National Police, Berlin State Police, Ukraine Security Service, U.S. National Central Bureau, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, and INTERPOL. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel A. Velez and Randy Hsia.

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