ORLANDO, Fla. — Three people from Kissimmee have been indicted on kidnapping charges, connected to a human smuggling operation.
Investigators said it’s all connected to the kidnapping of an immigrant from Mexico who was forced into an SUV, held at gunpoint and driven from Wisconsin to Central Florida.
According to law enforcement, the victim had been smuggled into the United States in 2021 and was being forced to work off the debt by doing construction here.
Court records show he was working construction here in Florida, but his employer was taking most of the money to pay off the smugglers.
The immigrant then headed to Wisconsin to work and that’s when investigators say he was kidnapped at gunpoint and brought back to Florida.
Records show his employer was Abasita Engracia-Gonzalez, also known as “Mary.”
Immigration attorney Gail Seerum said immigrants are often afraid of turning to the police.
“I’ve heard stories of people working and not getting paid. And then being told, if you report us to the authorities, we’re going to report you to immigration,” Seerum said.
In this case, the worker headed north to Abbotsford Wisconsin and started working in a sausage factory.
That’s when he told police he received threatening messages from Mary that stated: “his family would be killed if he did not pay his debts.”
His mom even received a message that told the mother that she would be getting her son returned in pieces.
Over the summer, investigators said “Mary’s” husband Felipe Engracia-Gonzalez and Gerardo Anselmo drove from Kissimmee to Wisconsin, held the victim at gunpoint, threw his phone out the window and drove him back to Florida where he was told He needed to work off his debt and that after six months Mary said she might let him go.
“So, a lot of times they work, they don’t get paid. Sometimes there are threats, and unfortunately, sometimes immigrants become victims of crime,” Seerum said.
The worker owed nearly $12,000.
Since then, he and other family members reported the crime.
Now all three suspects have been indicted on federal charges for the kidnapping conspiracy.
“This is an extreme case. I have not heard of such an extreme case where an employer took such extreme actions,” Seerum said. “So I’m very happy to hear that the authorities proper authorities were called.”
Seerum told Channel 9 that often immigrants are afraid to say anything, but said it can actually help their legal status.
If an immigrant helps identify crime and cooperates with authorities they can become eligible for what’s called a U-Visa which them temporary legal status and could help them become a lawful permanent resident
“This is an incentive to help immigrants who are the victim of crime to report those crimes as in the story,” Seerum said.
The two men involved in the kidnapping are locked up in Wisconsin
Mary remains locked up in the Seminole County jail but is also expected to be brought to Wisconsin.
All three face up to life in prison if convicted.
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