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Life Sentence for Champaign Resident Involved in Kidnapping and Forced Labor Plot

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A Guatemalan citizen residing in Champaign has been sentenced to life in federal prison for his involvement in a prolonged kidnapping and forced labor operation, along with his siblings.

Domingo Francisco-Juan was identified as the mastermind behind the operation, leading to what prosecutors described as a “severe and unprecedented” sentence under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. This marks the first life sentence under this law in more than a decade.

Furthermore, one of Francisco-Juan’s siblings, Catarina Domingo-Juan, has been handed a 20-year prison term for her complicity in the scheme. Another sibling, Lorenza Domingo-Castaneda, is awaiting sentencing, with prosecutors seeking a similar 20-year sentence.

The trio was charged with conspiracy to commit forced labor and kidnapping. According to prosecutors, between 2015 and 2019, they enticed three individuals, including two minors, from Guatemala to the U.S. under false pretenses of providing care, education, and a better life.

However, upon their arrival in the U.S., the victims were subjected to exploitation, coercion, and deprivation of their basic rights. The siblings coerced them into performing laborious tasks like cleaning hotel rooms and factory work, withholding their earnings and preventing any communication with their families back in Guatemala. Additionally, the siblings resorted to fraudulent means, including falsifying documents to assert false relationships with the victims.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clark from the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice stated, “The defendants callously reneged on their promises, callously exploiting the victims without regard for their well-being or humanity.”

Through physical and psychological intimidation, the victims were compelled to endure harsh working conditions, constituting a nightmare for the young women involved, as highlighted by U.S. Attorney Gregory Harris. One victim, a 10-year-old girl upon her arrival in 2015, remained under the siblings’ control until January 2021.

The sentencing, including the life term for Francisco-Juan, underscores the seriousness of their offenses, as emphasized by Harris. Clark noted the distinctive elements of this case, particularly the kidnapping charges and the victims’ ages, which contributed to the severe penalties imposed.

Harris and Sean Fitzgerald, a Special Agent in Charge with Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago, praised the collaborative efforts of local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Champaign Police Department, Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, FBI, and U.S. Marshals Service, in ensuring justice for the victims and holding the perpetrators accountable.