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San Francisco couple charged with human labor trafficking

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins has filed charges against a married couple, accused of human labor trafficking, according to a press release from her office.

“Domestic workers play an important role in our economy and like all workers should be paid fairly and protected from exploitation,” Jenkins stated in a press release. “Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking due to their isolation within their employers’ homes. Our office stands with the victim and will do everything in our power to hold Jose Aguila and Lorraine Lim accountable and send a message that this conduct will not be tolerated.”

The San Francisco couple brought a nanny, Nicel R., to the United States from the Philippines in June 2019, the DA’s office stated in the press release.

The nanny was “was forced to work seven days a week caring for the suspects’ disabled child in addition to other forced labor in and outside of the home,” she claims, and that while she was told she’d only have to be in the US for three months, that turned into two-and-a-half years.

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“The suspects allegedly isolated Nicel R., who does not speak English, through various means, including by remaining in possession of her passport, restricting her from having friends or cell service, and controlling and monitoring her ability to leave the home/workplace, ” the press release stated. “By making her dependent on the suspects for life’s basic necessities, such as food, shelter and money, Nicel R. lacked the resources to leave her employers.”

For the first several months, Nicel R. was paid $240 a month, the DA’s office stated. Then that was reduced to $40 a month, despite the fact she was required “to be available at all times, even in the middle of the night.” Nicel R. lived in a storage room without heating and stacked with clothes and boxes, the DA’s office claimed.

“Aguila and Lim also did not provide other mandatory employee benefits such as payment for the substantial overtime hours she worked, meal and rest breaks, paid sick leave, workers’ compensation insurance, and proof of wages,” the press release stated. “Nicel R. was saved in large part because of a neighbor’s call to police. Once the neighbor realized what was happening, she alerted the San Francisco Police. The SFPD Special Victims Unit rescued Nicel R. on November 29, 2021, with support from Homeland Security Special Agents. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Division supported the victim since the rescue by placing her in a safe environment and providing resources for her to build a life free from abuse.”

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Aguila and Lim surrendered on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.

“Each of the suspects posted bond on $100,000 bails set by the court,” the press release stated. “Pre-trial release conditions include electronic monitoring by the San Francisco Sherriff’s Department, surrendering passports and abiding by the terms of a Criminal Protective Order which states that they must have no contact with the victim and must stay 100 yards away from her. If convicted of all charges, they face each over 19 years in State Prison.”

Anyone with information on labor trafficking is asked to call the SFPD tips line at 1-415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD.

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