Five brothers are accused of forcing young immigrants into slave labor in the Philadelphia area -- making them clean big department stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart and Safeway.
The Botsvynyuk boys recruited mostly young men from the Ukraine, their homeland, with promises of high-paying jobs and homes, according to the federal government.
When the victims got to Philadelphia, the Botsvynyuk brothers turned on them, according to prosecutors. The brothers took away all their documents, forced the immigrants to live in pitiful conditions with little or no furniture, work at least 16-hour days with little food and rarely, if ever paid them as promised, according to U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger.
The victims were also told that they owed the brothers between $10 and $50 thousand to basically buy their freedom, according to the indictment.
Workers who tried to escape were allegedly beaten and those who did escape often had family members back home threatened by the brothers.
In one instance, one of the brothers threatened to force a victim's daughter (who was nine-years-old at the time) into prostitution to pay off the family "debt," according to the indictment.
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"It's sad but true, here in this country, people are being bought, sold and smuggled. They're trapped in lives of misery, often beaten, starved and forced to work long hard hours for little or no pay," said Doug Lindquist, Acting Special Agent in charge of the FBI's Philadelphia division.
One female immigrant was brutally raped on several occasions, prosecutors alleged.
An international source tipped off the feds, according to Memeger. Posecutors believe there were as many as 30 victims.
“The victims in this case entered this country with dreams of great opportunity only to find themselves living a nightmare,” said Memeger. “They trusted this band of brothers, they performed the work they were told only to be rewarded with false promises, threats of brutality, and deprivation of their basic human needs. No one trying to immigrate to this country should have to endure such mistreatment.”
The human trafficking took place between 2000 and 2007, according to prosecutors.
Four of the five brothers are in custody. One was arrested in Philadelphia, another in Germany and two in Canada. Investigators are still searching for the last brother in the Ukraine. They racketeering charges against them include extortion and conspiracy.