Slavery Charges Send Man To Prison
Juan Ramos, a citrus contractor from Lake Placid, will serve 15 years and pay $20,000 in fines.
Robin Campbell, TCPalm (FL), May 4
FORT PIERCE — A Lake Placid citrus contractor, convicted of federal slavery and immigrant-harboring charges in 2002, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison.
Juan Ramos, 35, was also fined $20,000 for holding more than a hundred migrant workers from Mexico against their will.
He was one of three men earlier convicted of conspiracy to violate federal laws by keeping migrant workers in involuntary servitude, interference with commerce through extortion by threats of violence, using a firearm in connection to a violent crime and harboring illegal aliens.
Monday’s sentencing included only the conspiracy and harboring charges.
Juan and his brother, Ramiro Ramos, who were sentenced once already in November 2002 on all four counts, succeeded on appeal to having the other two counts overturned a year later. Jose Ramos, their cousin, was exonerated of all four charges and set free in September.
Juan Ramos’ first sentence, in 2002 for 12 years in prison, was overturned.
Choking on tears, Ramos pleaded with the judge for a “second chance.”
“For 24 years I’ve been living in the same town in the United States,” Ramos said in Spanish, an interpreter relaying his pleas. “Every person makes mistakes and every person deserves a second chance.”
The FBI and U.S. Border Patrol in West Palm Beach arrested the three men in May 2001 after a two-year investigation.
They found that the men collectively recruited more than 600 illegal Mexican immigrants and put them to work. They prevented them from leaving work, housed them in “abysmal” conditions and kept them working with threats of violence, court documents stated.
Norman Rodriguez, Juan Ramos’ attorney, asked U.S. District Court Judge Michael Moore for leniency because he said it wasn’t right to make an example of Ramos. The citrus industry is rampant with illegal migrant workers, he said.
“This business of harboring illegal immigrants is widespread,” Rodriguez said. “… So to say Juan Ramos deserves 15 years without regard of the abuses in the United States is disheartening. This responsibility needs to be shared.”
Moore said sentencing acts as a deterrent for others who would hold illegal immigrants and force them to work.