An Illinois woman was arrested Tuesday morning for holding 33 Guatemalan immigrants — nearly half of whom were children — in her basement while forcing them to perform labor.
The woman also forced her captives to pay her for bringing them to the United States to claim asylum. She allegedly threatened them with deportation if they refused to work, NBC News reports.
Concepcion Malinek, 49, now faces forced labor charges following her arrest for coercing 19 adults and 14 children to work and reside in the basement of her home in Cicero, Illinois, according to a 12-page federal criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois.
The FBI began investigating Malinek in March after someone who worked with one of the victims contacted authorities for suspected human trafficking.
Malinek allegedly charged the Guatemalan immigrants thousands of dollars for helping them enter the country; forcing them to work at a factory in Romeoville, Illinois; and then pay her large portions of their monthly paychecks for housing and transportation to and from work.
One man identified only as Victim D in the filed complaint claims that he owes Malinek $18,000 for allowing him to use her name and residence on his immigration paperwork.
Victim D also revealed that Malinek kept a ledger of the amounts everyone who lived in the house owed her, which was obtained by authorities during the police raid on her house, Tuesday. One of the “contracts” uncovered with the ledger stated that a victim was free to leave once their “debt” was paid.
“Victim D stated nobody [was] allowed to leave the basement of the residence to go upstairs,” the complaint states, according to NBC News.
Another of the 33 Guatemalans, identified as Victim C by the complaint, told authorities that Malinek dared the Guatemalans to call the police on her.
“Immigration knows how many people live in this house,” Malinek allegedly threatened, according to the complaint. “You guys are poor, and I have all the money.”
She also allegedly said, “They already know you are here, so go ahead and call them.”
Victim C’s husband told police that their family owed Malinek $30,000 for bringing them into the country, and he was forced to pay her $724 of his monthly work paycheck. He also claims that most of the Guatemalans being held in the house were claiming political asylum while at least two were in the country illegally with no pending asylum.