ST. PAUL (March 26, 2014) — Tieu Tran, 59, of Mankato, Minn., pleaded guilty late yesterday to one count of forced labor trafficking in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the Justice Department announced today.
Tran is the former owner and manager of Nails By Jordan, a nail salon located in Mankato.
According to evidence presented in court proceedings and documents, in 2008, Tran recruited a woman from Vietnam to travel to the United States using false promises of legal immigration status and a high-paying job.
In reality, Tran smuggled the victim and two other Vietnamese nationals across the southern U.S.-Mexico border, imposed a significant debt upon the victim and forced the victim to pay down the smuggling debt by working at Tran’s son’s Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Saigon, in Mankato.
During the plea proceedings, Tran admitted to compelling the victim to work long hours without paying her as promised, using a scheme, plan and pattern of non-violent coercion. This included manipulation of debts, isolation and verbal intimidation to hold the victim in fear, knowing that the victim was without legal status and money, did not have the ability to speak English, feared losing her family home in Vietnam to creditors and had nowhere else to turn for subsistence.
“This defendant preyed on vulnerable victims and exploited them for her profit,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “Traffickers routinely use schemes of non-violent coercion to exploit victims by manipulating the victims’ debts, fears of immigration consequences, linguistic isolation and other vulnerabilities. The Civil Rights Division is committed to seeking justice on behalf of victims of human trafficking and to holding human traffickers accountable”
“Human trafficking degrades the dignity of humanity and strikes at the heart of individual equality and freedom,” said U.S. Attorney Andy Luger for the District of Minnesota. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota will aggressively prosecute those who seek to capitalize on human frailty through such conduct.”
“The FBI, in conjunction with its law enforcement partners, remains steadfast in its commitment to eradicate human trafficking,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Chris Warrener of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. “Human trafficking is an insidious crime which impacts not only its victims, but society as a whole. Detecting and bringing to justice those who perpetrate these schemes will always be a top priority for law enforcement.”
Tran faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of her plea agreement, Tran agreed to nullify all debts imposed upon the victim, as well as similar debts imposed upon seven other individuals believed to be under similar circumstances.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William Nolan of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Steinkamp of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.