Two men convicted of human trafficking | Local News
BUFFALO – Two Niagara County men will serve mostly house arrest sentences for forcing undocumented immigrants to work at their Mexican restaurant in Niagara Falls.
Roberto Montes-Villalpando, 60, of Sanborn, and Abraham Montes, 28, of North Tonawanda, were each convicted by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Vilardo for pleading guilty to conspiracy to harbor foreigners for purposes financial and causing serious bodily harm.
The charges carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000, but Villardo sentenced Montes-Villalpando to just 18 months of house arrest, while his son, Montes, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months in house arrest.
Montes-Villalpando and Montes owned and operated the Mexican restaurant El Cubilete, which between December 2014 and late 2018 was located in the 9400 block of Niagara Falls Boulevard. At the end of 2018, the restaurant moved to the 2000 block of Cayuga Extension, also at the falls.
Federal prosecutors said Montes-Villalpando managed the restaurant, supervised staff, including wait and kitchen staff, made hiring and firing decisions and determined payroll.
Her son, Montes, also oversaw the kitchen staff which included victims, identified in an indictment by the grand jury as Victims 1-4, who were each from and citizens of Mexico.
The victims, not all of whom had legal status to be in the United States, were employed as cooks, preparers and dishwashers. They lived in a sublet apartment in Niagara Falls, rented by Montes-Villalpando.
Between November 1, 2014 and February 18, 2018, Montes-Villalpando and Montes were accused of recruiting and hiring undocumented foreign nationals, who entered the United States illegally, to work for them. Prosecutors said Montes-Villalpando and Montes instigated undocumented workers, including Victims 1 and 2, who lived in Ohio, to come to the falls to work at El Cubilete.
The father and son team would have promised workers better pay and fewer hours. But federal investigators have charged that during their employment, Victims 1, 2, 3 and 4 were paid less than what is required by the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York State law, which requires a minimum wage of $ 9 per hour.
An analysis by the US Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General, determined that victims were underpaid by $ 5,386.60 for victim 1, $ 8,513.44 for victim 2, 61,665, $ 40 for victim 3 and $ 6,006.60 for victim 4.
Prosecutors also accused that in February 2018, Montes punched Victim 3 in the nose and said he would kill her. Montes then allegedly used a fire extinguisher to strike victim 3 in the head.
Victim 3 was taken to hospital for medical treatment where he was diagnosed with a broken nose and a head laceration.