Accused Labor Trafficker's Trial Starts Today
Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | 231 | 0 | 8 min read
A man accused of running an extensive labor-trafficking operation and exploiting immigrant workers went on trial Monday in a case that has gained national attention.
Ricardo Batres was charged in 2018 with supplying laborers to construction sites in the booming Minneapolis area, but denying them workers' compensation coverage, shorting them wages and forcing them to live in overcrowded conditions with no hot water, according to a local news report.
The workers were not authorized to work in the United States. When they objected to their working conditions and threatened to leave, Batres reported them to federal immigration authorities, prosecutors said. The criminal complaint also notes that Batres threatened to report workers when they were injured on the job if they sought medical care or reported their injuries.
The Batres prosecution is the first under an anti-trafficking Minnesota law passed in 2005. Labor trafficking cases are not widely prosecuted because they have been shown to be difficult to prove, authorities have said. But in Minneapolis, prosecutors worked with Latino community leaders to gather evidence on Batres.
In one example, an employee was seriously injured after a prefabricated wall fell on him, prosecutors allege. The complaint said Batres acted as an interpreter and lied to hospital staff about how the worker sustained the injuries, in order to avoid a workers’ compensation claim. Batres allegedly told the employee that he should go along with the story or risk deportation, according to a news report.