Smuggling case with ties to Aberdeen sends three to prison

Teen and younger cousin subjected to servitude and molestation

Three Mexican citizens who were living in Federal Way, but lived in Aberdeen in the early and mid-2000s, were sentenced to prison Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle for conspiracy to violate immigration laws for financial gain. They likely will be deported when they are released.

Sentenced were Miguel Arcef-Flores, 42, (to 40 months in prison); Angel Sandoval Mondragon, 37, (to 36 months in prison); and Marbella Sandoval Mondragon, 38, (to 34 months in prison). Along with their smuggling crimes, they were in the country without legal status, the Department of Justice said.

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart imposed the sentences, saying that the “extreme and abusive conduct of the defendants” took the case “well outside the heartland of the typical alien smuggling case.”

“The defendants promised the world, and then stole the childhood of a 14-year-old girl,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “They preyed on a vulnerable relative for their own selfish and depraved reasons. Victims should know that they can safely come forward and report human trafficking crimes and all of us in law enforcement will work to ensure the perpetrators of such crimes are brought to justice.”

While in Aberdeen, the then-teenager and her cousin were sexually molested and threatened with deportation if they told anyone about their situation and were denied food and medical care, according to the Department of Justice. The defendants eventually moved to the Seattle area. Court papers described some of the molestation incidents as having taken place in Aberdeen.

Miguel Arcef-Flores served as an assistant pastor at a church in Aberdeen for a time, according to court papers. He was accused of sexually molesting the teen’s younger relative and acting sexually inappropriate to the teen, according to the papers.

“No one should be forced to live in a world of isolation, servitude and terror as this young victim was, particularly in a country that prides itself on its freedoms,” said Brad Bench, a special agent who worked on the case. “It’s a sad reflection on human greed and heartlessness, that people believe they can engage in this kind of egregious exploitation with impunity.”

According to records filed in the case and evidence offered in court, in December 2004, Angel Sandoval Mondragon, who had recently been voluntarily removed from the United States to Mexico, began recruiting his then 14-year-old niece to travel with him from Mexico into the United States. Angel Sandoval Mondragon and his family, including his sister, Marbella Sandoval Mondragon, and her husband, Miguel Arcef-Flores, and their children, had been living illegally in Aberdeen. Angel Sandoval Mondragon promised the young girl a better life with an education and a home with his family. In early 2005, Angel Sandoval Mondragon smuggled the teen-ager across the border from Mexico with the help of a “coyote.” Angel Sandoval Marbella and Miguel Arcef-Flores picked them up and transported them to Aberdeen, where the three defendants shared a home with their five children and another teenage niece, who had previously been smuggled into the United States. The young girl was then informed that she would not be enrolling in school, but was instead expected to work to pay off a smuggling debt.

Angel Sandoval Mondragon obtained false documents for the teen and helped her procure employment at various low wage temporary jobs at local companies in the Seattle area, including Plush Pippin and Seattle Gourmet Food. The teenager was required to give all the money she earned to the three defendants to pay for rent, food, and household expenses.

In approximately May 2006, the victim’s employment with the temporary staffing agency was terminated because she was physically unable to work. The defendants sent the victim and her teenage cousin back to Mexico. The defendants continued to tell the victim that she owed them money for the costs incurred in bringing her to, and harboring her in the United States.

A few years later, in 2009, Marbella Sandoval Mondragon recruited her two younger brothers, both of whom were juveniles, to travel from Mexico to live with her and Miguel Arcef Flores in the Seattle area. After the juveniles arrived they were told they had incurred smuggling debts and had to repay her. Marbella Sandoval Mondragon took custody of one of the juvenile brother’s identification documents and told him that he would not get the documents back until he had paid his debt in full.

All three defendants were indicted in December 2015 and have been in custody since their arrests on December 7, 2015.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Seattle Police Department, the Federal Way Police Department, and the Aberdeen Police Department. The Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division also assisted with restitution calculations.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kate Crisham and Bruce Miyake.