Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Roberto Villanueva was sentenced by United States District Judge Joanna Seybert to 72 months in prison for his role in the forced labor conspiracy that took place at the Thatched Cottage in Centerport, New York. The defendant pleaded guilty to forced labor and forced labor conspiracy on February 5, 2020 and has been incarcerated since his arrest on December 10, 2017.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Michael Alfonso, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, New York (DOL-OIG); and Patricia A. Menges, Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, New York Asylum Office (USCIS), announced the sentence.
“Villanueva exploited his victims’ immigration status, promising them the American dream, but instead threatening arrest or deportation if they didn’t work 16 hours a day, often unpaid, sleeping on bug infested mattresses covered in garbage bags, without heat or hot water,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This sentence highlights our Office’s commitment to bringing abusers to justice.”
“Villanueva knowingly manipulated these workers using bait-and-switch tactics to coerce and control them, forcing them to live in squalid conditions with a constant threat of physical harm if they failed to comply with his ever-escalating demands. Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that human lives are not commodities and these workers deserved dignity and respect. HSI is committed to working together with our partners to fight human trafficking in all its forms, including labor trafficking and exploitation to prevent abuses like this,” said Acting Special Agent in-Charge Alfonso for Homeland Security Investigations in New York.