Uzbek man sentenced for human trafficking

Published: May 10, 2011 at 10:01 AM

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WASHINGTON, May 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department said an Uzbek man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for heading a human trafficking operation described as "modern-day slavery."

Abrorkhodja Askarkhodjaev pleaded guilty in October 2010 to racketeering conspiracy, fraud in foreign labor contracting, evasion of corporate employment tax and identity theft.

The case was the first in the country in which forced labor trafficking was charged under the Rackeketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act, or RICO.

"Hundreds of illegal aliens working in 14 states were victims of modern-day slavery, including employees at hotels in the Kansas City, Mo., and Branson, Mo., areas," said Beth Phillips, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said Askarkhodjaev directed a criminal organization that exploited the hopes and dreams of scores of foreign workers.

In addition to the 12-year sentence, Askarkhodjaev was ordered to pay $172,000 in restitution to his victims.

Seven co-defendants in the case were previously sentenced for their respective roles.