Millcreek couple charged with human trafficking for labor
Nov 20, 2023, 6:00 PM
MILLCREEK, Utah — A Millcreek couple were charged Monday with helping two relatives enter the United States illegally, and then forcing them to work to pay off their debts while threatening to injure other family members if they didn’t.
Luis Mendez-Portillo, 50, and Lesbia Lisseth Figueroa Gallardo, 44, are charged in 3rd District Court with two counts of aggravated human trafficking for labor, a first-degree felony; human smuggling and benefiting from trafficking and human smuggling, second-degree felonies; four counts of forgery, a third-degree felony; and, two counts of unlawful possession of someone else’s identification documents, a class A misdemeanor.
Mendez-Portillo arranged for two women from Guatemala to get into the U.S. in November 2022.
One woman told investigators “she decided to come to the United States to earn money to send home to Guatemala to provide for her children. Her uncle, Mendez, told her he knew coyotes and would help her get across the border. (She) took approximately $16,000 in loans from Guatemalan banks and sent half the money to Mendez and the other half went to the coyote which was arranged by Mendez,” according to charging documents.
But when she arrived in Salt Lake City, Mendez allegedly told her that she owed him $20,000.