Paso Robles Couple Sentenced In Filipino Immigrant Smuggling Case
A man and his wife were each sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Monday for smuggling illegal immigrants from the Philippines to the United States.
The couple will also pay $600,000 in restitution to the nine victims who came forward.
Maximino, 46, and Melinda Morales, 48, pleaded guilty to harboring undocumented immigrants at four elder-care businesses in Paso Robles.
Prosecutors said victims were forced to work 24-hour shifts, with little pay, upon arriving to the U.S. They also were said to be housed in “sub-standard” conditions, sleeping in unheated garages and on floors of the elder-care facilities to be closer to clients.
The couple’s arrest came in March 2010 after an FBI investigation and execution of search warrants at the Paso Robles businesses.
While the victims weren’t present at Monday’s hearing, the defendants arrived with around 15 family members in support.
“He’s being portrayed like some kind of mafia criminal when they were just trying to help,” said one of Mr. Morales’ sisters outside the courtroom before the hearing.
The family left Paso Robles at 5 a.m. to make the 11 a.m. arraignment in Los Angeles.
Mr. and Mrs. Morales, both originally from the Philippines, allegedly promised the undocumented immigrants better work in California. Helping the Filipino nationals travel to the U.S. through transit visas, the couple told victims their small wages accounted for transportation costs.
Passports were withheld from the immigrants and the couple threatened to turn them into police if they spoke of poor working conditions.
The couple will each serve their 18-months of incarceration starting April 2 at a location close to their home of Paso Robles.