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US business partners get 4 years in jail for exploiting OFWs

Two Fil-American business partners from Florida in the United States have been sentenced to more than four years of imprisonment after a US court found them guilty of forced labor conspiracy against 39 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The United States District Court in Southern Florida in West Palm Beach sentenced on Saturday (Manila time) Alfonso Baldonado Jr., 45, and his business partner, Sophia Manuel, 41, to six and four years imprisonment, respectively, for conspiring with US-based labor recruitment company DAR Workforce Solutions to illegally hire Filipino workers. “(The) object of the conspiracy was to obtain a cheap, compliant, and readily available labor pool, using false promises regarding the terms of employment and pay to induce the Filipino nationals to incur significant debts to pay up front recruitment fees," the court decision read. The court also found Manuel and Baldonado, officials of Florida-based Quality Staffing Services, guilty of falsifying visas from July 2006 to June 2008 “to hold Filipino nationals in a condition of forced labor." Earlier in September 2010, Manuel and Baldonado had “pleaded guilty to conspiring to hold 39 Filipino nationals in compelled service in country clubs and hotels in Southeast Florida," the US Justice Department said in a release on its website. (See: Fil-Am couple pleads guilty to Florida forced-labor charges) The business partners also deprived the OFWs of their proper wage, food, housing and medical care, according to the court ruling. Aside from being sentenced to imprisonment, the business partners were also asked to pay a total of $300 (about P13,000) for the victims.—ACC/JV, GMANews.TV