CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) – A couple pleaded guilty Friday to charges of smuggling dozens of illegal immigrants from Peru and forcing them into “virtual servitude” to pay for their passage.

Jorge Ibanez and Maruiluz Zavala, both 43, pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors to charges that include conspiring to commit forced labor, transporting undocumented workers and providing them with forged green cards.

The couple was arrested during June 21 raids on three houses they owned in Suffolk County, where authorities found 69 aliens, including 13 children, living in what were described as squalid conditions.

Ibanez and Zavala could face more than 7 years in federal prison under the agreement, which includes fines of up to $250,000 each. No sentencing dates were scheduled.

They also agreed to surrender property and bank accounts, and because they are both resident aliens, to be deported following their prison terms.

Ibanez told U.S. District Court Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein that many of those who illegally entered the United States were relatives and said he “wanted to help them work and change their life.”

Charges are still pending against the couple’s 20-year-old daughter, Evelyn Ibanez.

Prosecutors contend that between June 1, 1999, and their arrests, Zavala and Ibanez ran a scheme to illegally obtain visas for Peruvian aliens, charging them $6,000 to $13,000 per person.

Once on Long Island, the aliens were given other false documents that allowed them to obtain factory jobs; nearly all their income was then turned over as repayment.

The couple “took advantage of desperate victims who would go to any length to come to the United States in order to build better lives for themselves and their families,” U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said.

The victims have been granted continued presence status in the United States, a step toward eventually being granted permanent legal status.



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