>> narrator: tonight on "frontlins". a crime that hides in plain sight. >> it's probably one of these things that you st don't want to know. >> narrator: immigrant teenagers forced to work. >> they were kids like me, 14 and a half, 15. >> narrator: at farms that feed milies. >> they're vulnerable and easy to victimize. and they're alone. >> narrator: "frontline" takes you on a journey from central america to the american heartland. >> we've got these kids. t for o just throw them to the wolves, it's ong. >> narrator:eporter daffodil altan, from the uc berkeley investigative reporting program, goes iide a criminal conspiracy. >> altan: is pablo someone you would ever consider dangerous? >> i think he's like a rat in a corner if you trapd in it. >> narrator: "trafficked in
america" >> "frontline" is made possible by contributions to your pbsn statom viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation forbl broadcasting. additional support is provided by the abrams undation. committed to excellence in journalism. the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awarenessi of cl issues. the john and helen glessner family trust. supporng trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires.d the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. major support for frontline and for "trafficked in america" is dprovided by the john d. catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdt and peaceful world. more information is available at macfound.org. snd additional support for t program from the international documentary association and the ford foundation. ta
>> daffodil there are some things we don't see. not because they're not there, but because we don't always understand what is right in frt of us. >> i never heard of human trafficking before. when i heard it, i thought, like, sex slaves, imdiately. i thought... i never hea of it used in this type of way, where it was threats, with being held against their will, you know, stuff like that. i've never heard it like this. no, this was the first time i've ever heard of it. it ts is the first time i've heard of my dad ever doing stuff like that.
i remember when i was working there. i s 14 and a half, 14 and half, 15 at the time. so they were kids like me, working like that. >> altan: they were workinghe , at trillium farms, in 2014, where workers described conditions similar to this undercover footage taken at other companies' plants around the country. >> (speaking spanish):
>> usually we'd show up to the site at about 6:00, and we wouldn't get done untiout 5:00. and we didn't get breaks. they could never sit down and, like, take a half an hour break. it was maybe five minutes, tops. and ey go and they drink som water and their energy drinks and then go back to work. >> (speaking spanish):
>> i bought my trailer. there was holes in the walls. i guess they were using the closets spaces to sleep. over here in the left... over here in the right-hand corner, there's en mattresses. there was kids' shoes underneath there. there was some clothing. it looked like someone was recently sleeping there. i mean, i don't know how many people were living here, but to me, it looked ke they were stuffing a lot of people in just a three-bedroom trailer.nn
they had no rug water. there was no toilet. no toilet. when i came in, there was a five-gallon bucket. they had feces and stuff already, that was already in there. so it was stinking up the whole trailer. i mean, it was really nasty. it was like... maybe they were being kidnapped or being held hostage or, you know, maybe juse t was in the back old days where they used to take them a use them for slaves or something like that. that's pretty much what it oked like to me. it didn't look like it was ad really gooving environment-- it didn't at all. >> in our own cotry, we have, today, a lot of victims of human trafficking that are invisible to our own eyes. and let's not forget that some of them are kids. and the end of the game is to subject that person to peonage,
to slavery. they're an easy prey. they're vulnerable and easy to victimize and they're alone. >> altan: in our years of reofrting on the exploitatio immigrant workers, we'd come across cases of labor trafficking. but nothing quite like this one. teenagers were being forced tove lind work like this in the middle of america, and for months, no one did anything about it. our investigation into and why this happened, and who was responsible, would take us inside a criminal networkng stretchirom ohio to central amica.
we found some of the teens, but they wouldn't speak to us on camera out of fear for themselves and their families. some would end up tellintheir stories in court. >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: the tes say castillo had a network of smugglers who moved them through mexico by bus, on foot, d on the infamous train known as la bestia-- "the beast." >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: once they made it to the u.s., most were detained by the border patrol.
at the time, the boys were ang tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from central america who were fleeing violence and poverty, and coming to the u.s. in record numbers. they were turned over department of health and human services, whose job it was to place them with a relative or an adult sponsor. but hhs was overwhelmed, and began to relax their standards for vetting. er first, the federal government decided to stop fiinting most of these sponsors who were coming in to claim children. and then, over a period of months later, they decided to stop requiring that sponsors submit original or certified copies of thr birth certificates. and then finally, they stopped requiring fbi criminals background cher many sponsors. >> altan: castillo took adntage of the chaos. he had accomplices in ohio waiting to pose as sponsors foro th. f so in the summer14, hhs
began releasing the teens, and ey were brought to ohio, to trailers owned by castillo. >> (speaking spanish): >> aan: it was a farm with a troubled past, going back decades and across the country. before trilliu it was owned and operated by one of the uction's biggest and most notorious egg prs-- jack decoster. j >>t down the road, the
chorus comes from thousands of hens packed into cramped little cages. at jack decoster's egg farm, human beings don't live much tter. i remember pitching it to my news director, saying, "i want to do a story on decoster egg farm." nobody had ever been in there.t we wenover there with the w cameras and itorse than i ever could have imagined. >> hello.he >> tompany owned the trailers and the property that the trailers we on. but decoster did no maintenance on them. the people were crammed into these littlerailers, like, eight guys in one trailer on broken bunk beds. there was raw sewage on the ground. the plumbing and the pipes were broken. it was nasty. a it waswful. >> we will not tolerate these abuses of working people in the united states.ed the more i leabout jack decoster, the angrier i got.
he was very much the most egregious serial violator that i had ever seen. and the conditions on his farms for migrant workers were amongea the worst hops i had, i had ever come across. t >> altan: in 1997,he department of labor fi decoster $2 million for violations at his facities in maine. but it didn't stop there. for years, authorities continued to fine decoster for abuses against his workers. >> they couldn't escape, really. they couldn't leave. once they were there, they were stuck. today we call it trafficking. but back then it was just smuggling people in and treating them like slaves. >> as far as mistreating these workers here, i don't... i don't want to mistreat these workers, and i don't feel i've mistreated these workers. >> but how did decost such a bad name? >> i wish i... i'd like to know. (laughs)
>> i think jack felt the conditions were better than what they're us to in mexico. you know, he was out for best anworker at the lowest prid for him that was a hispanic worker. >> john glessner worked with decoster for moreye than 2s. he ran some of his operations, and was known as his right-hand man. decoster declined to bein rviewed, and glessner has never before spoken publicly about his experiences. >> i remember that john glessner was the business mager. he would never talk to us. we tried. he was one of those very elusive figures at the decoster facili. his loyalty was to jack decoster anto the profit of that operation.
>> altan: though they have sincd fallen outave sued each other, glessner played a critical role in building decoster's egg empire, which stretched from maine into oh and here in iowa. this was your former territory, right? you were running... you built lll this, you were running this. >> yeah, with jack. i mean, you know, obviously it was jack's investment, and i oversaw, you know, a lot of the construction and that of it. so, i mean, i basically lived, lived and died this for eight years, you know, during the construction process when these were being built. (police siren bleeps) >> hello. >> hi. >> can i see your driver's license, please? >> sure. what's the problem? >> i think a deputy back here wants to talk to you.ou so canave a seat with me, please? >> sure. >> altan: we had attracted
the attention of the farm, who'd called the lal sheriff on us. >> had a report of some people innging around at 250th and 69. you were seen leavg the scene of the area. >> yeah. >> is that true? >> yes. >> okay. can you tell me what was going on? >> no, i used to run these facilities for decoster. >> oh, you did? >> yes. >> okay. >> years ago. >> okay. what's the guy in the back with the video camera? >> oh, they're just some people onat were doing a stor decoster now. >> yeah? who are they with? who are they working for? >> altan: why are you talking with us? >> why am i talking with you? our industry, the egg industry, is so tight-lipped. you know, i don't know of anybody that's going to come before you and start talking
about these issues openly without bringing some repercussions on them or their operations and that. so it's easier for me to do it becausi'm no longer in the industry. it's basically to try to help the industry aa whole, so they can improve later on and not run into the same sues that i've been involved in in the past that have occurred. >> altan: glessner said one of the biggest issuewas trying to find people to do the work. >> you know, it's pretty physical. >> altan: eight-hour, ten-hour days? >> no, it could be as much as 16, depending on what was going on. >> altan: will americans do this work? >> boy, i don't think so. i don't even think..i don't even know if wage came into it, whether you could keep them. >> altan: to get the work done, they turned to iigrants,
even though he suspected some of them had false documents. >> it's probably one of these things that you just don't want to know. do you suspect that th that this is going on? probably. but do you really watry digging into it? >> aan: in 2001, authorities raided decoster's iowa plants and detained approximately 90 undocumented workers. de >> the plant was rseveral times throughout several years, and one looked into human trafficking. no one looked into exploitation of workers. >> altan: sonia parras represented some of the workers. they told her they had been recruited from mexico, gone to debt, and were being threatened when they complained. >> it wasn't until we started unraveling all these multi-layers of victimization that we realized that some of
these victims were also victims of human trafficking. >> altan: decoster ande glessner wver charged with labor trafficking, but they were inth convicted of charges related to the hof illegal workers. you pled guilty to harboring aliens. what does that mean? >> you know what the problem was? you had people that were working under one name, okay? you could say they're undocumented, using forged cards or whatever, and then the next minute they got legal somehow. but i guess basically, they felw i should've that they were illegal and allowed them to work still. so i guess you call that harboring. >> altan: so did... you pled guilty. did you know? >> mmm... >> the recall has grown to more than 500 million eggs... >> altan: then in 2010, a salmonella outbreak sickened an
estimated 56,000 people, destroying the company's reputation. >> at that point, of course, i'm telling jack decoster that, you know, the operations neeto be sold. where you are now is, you feel cleaned up and adequate? >> sir, please, let me talk. >> the guy's got so much ntbaggage, it got to the pou couldn't even market the eggs. s i go deal with jack and, "you know, you've got to sell the facilities. t you've glease them. you've got to do something. you've got to get out." >> altan: decoster did get out. he stopped running his plants,in and ead leased them to other companies.ra the ohio oon was leased to trillium farms, which kept most of decoster's employs. by 2014, it was one of the five largest in the count, producing ten milln eggs a day. this is where the traffickers forced the guatemalan teens to work off their debts.
on camera. sh >> (speaking spa >> one day i received a phone call. there was a gentleman that had a m phew that had been smuggled into the country fatemala, and was being kept to work against his will in ohio.th and 24 hours, i had a conference call from the head of the fbi, hsiand the u.s. attorney's office in that region.
>> altan: two months later, federal and local law enforcement moved in. >> a human trafficking bust at an egg farm in... >> altan: in the early morning hours, they raided the trailer park where the teens had been living. p >> federsecutors call it modern-day slavery. >> their paychecks kept by their traffickers. >> altan: they detainedy approximat people. >> the human trafficking operation was ruby a third- party contractor hired by trillium farms. altan: at least ten, th determined, were victims of trafficking, including eight minors. >> the u.s. attorney's office says its investigation is ongoing. >> i mean, how could that possibly happen? the more we learned about it, the more it became apparent that there was a connection back to our immigration policies and how the dertment of health and human services deals with kids who come here unaccompanied. what makes the marion case even more alarming is that a u.s. government agencwas actually responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of the abusers.
how could the deral government take these kids in and try to protect them, and then as they nd them out to families, you know, pending a court date, give them right back to the people who had brought them up here? here's one of those homes-- this is a trailer. >> altan: senator rob portman was chairman of the committee that investigated the failures at the department of health and human services-- the agency that released the boys to the traffickers in ohio. >> the more we learned, the more troubling it was from a federal perspective, because no one seed to want to take responsibility for it. >> what everybody's doing is doing this-- out the de're done. >> we've got these kids. they're here. they're living on our soil. and for us to just, you know, assume someone else is going to take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what hhs was doing, is flat-ong. i don't care what you thinkn about immigratlicy-- it's wrong. >> altan: the hhs division responsible for placing the teens declined to be interviewed.
they tolthe committee they had strengthened their procedures to protect children. but the committee ha found over a dozen other cases of traicking related to the surge, and said it was impossible to know just how many more victims there are. >> it was not just the ohio egg farm case-- there were other cases in which multiple children were placed with sponsors in homes where they were subject to usman trafficking, sexual and other severe forms of abuse d exploitation. more than 180,000 unaccompanied minors have been placed in communities across the country. but because there's so little follow-up with them once they're out of the government's care, wn haidea what's happened to them. >> altan: during our investigation, we found that some of the unaccompanied minors ended upin sma towns across the midwest, like here in clarion, iowa.
>> so we were getting, like, kids, like, every week. they were coming from all over the place. and most of them, just random people bng them. and they c say, "they're my cousin, they're my uncle, they're my aunt." and then they say, "well, 's not my real uncle, they just tell me to say that." they come to school,ut they don't... they can't function, because they're so tired. and you ask them, "why are you so tired?" and they don't respond. and then you keepushing and pushing. "okay, i was working, i'm working. i have to work. you don't understand-- i have to work." they always say they're in debt. that that's why they are working. >> altan: berta alberts works with immigrant teensd says many of her students have told w her the on they pay off their debt is by working long shifts at nearby food processing plants.
>> altan: to date, we found no one in law enforcement that has investigated or intervened here and people we spoke to said they'd heard of at least 30 teens working in plants in ts area of iowa-- paying off debts, working long hours, unable j to leave thes. just like the teens in ohio. in the months after the raid at the trailer pax people were arrested, among them aroldo castillo, the guatemalan traffier. he pled guilty to forced labor and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. >> these people charged in this case, they work as a team. so there's leaders.
caen there's what you woul sort of task masters, the people who actually oversee the slave labor. and then there's individuals who cruit and transport them, and they all have different roles. some are more culpabn e hers. >> altan: after itial arrests, prosecutors continued looking for bigger targets. >> the fbi and the department of homeland security, they' continuing to investigate the case. and we will follow the facts wherever they go. >> altanwe also wanted to know who else was responsible. our repoing led us to focus on a key player in the ohio operation-- a man who worked with decoster, and then trillium. his name is pablo dura sr., and his company had a multi-million-dollar contract with trillium to supply workers. >> i can see how some of these employers are put in the
standpoint, you got no labor or whatever and pablo duran shows up and says, "hey, i can fixur roblem." and it's probably a situation ere they're sitting there saying, you know... i'm not going to look into anything. i wasn't out questioning people and saying, "hey, are you documented, you know, non-doc..." u know, i mean, why go to that standpoint and destroy your own business? >> altan: pablo duran, sr., left town after the raid, leavinhis family behind. his son, pablo, jr., pled guilty to running a crew that included some of the teens, but he woul't speak to us. we found his younger son, marco. he told us about the day his brother was arrested. d >> in't hear about anything until the week of fourth of july.
i called my brother. and i'm, like, "at's up, man?" he's, like, "well, i'm getti processed." i'm, like, "what the hell do yon mean you're geprocessed?" he's, like, "i'm getting put in jail." i'm, like,what did you do?" he's, like, "dude, i don't even know." i'm, like, "what do you mean?" he's, like, "they said they had a warrant." and 's, like, "i'm turning myself in." i was just... i was so... i was shocked. and then i came home, and my mom... tears.ar showed me thcle saying "human trafficking." and i was thinking... i'm, like, "when did this happen?" like, i thought for a second my brother was living, like, double life. that on one side he was the good family man that we thought, and owen the next, he was doing very bad things, you and then i come to find out he was doing his job, you know? >> altan: pablo duran, jr., ended uppending 14 months in prison, but marco says his brother was just following orders from their father. >> my dad was the main boss, so my dad pretty much owned all crews, but that was the crew erat my dad gave to my bro
>> altan: marco says he also worked with his fath trillium when he was in high school, and when the guatemalan teens were there. >> i remember when i was working there, my dad stopped by, because he was one of the, you know, lead guys. and he stopped by and he pulled me aside, he's, like, "you need to look around he's, like, "these young people," you know, "younger than you," he's, like, "these peoplef com poor countries and they're working harder than most people that were born here with the citizenship, and, you know, all those rights." my dad told me their ages and how they ranged from 1bout 18. so they were high schoolers in the u.s., you know, high schoolers, barely middleol scs, kids like me, working like that. you don't see my dad going to jail or going to prison anday being taken rom his family. my dad was smart about everything, and was able to make it that he wouldn't get taken away. he's in xico right now. >> altan: in fact, we found out there waa warrant for his arrest, and an order to extradite him.
and we found court records thatl ged he had been in regular contact with aroldo castillo about smuggling in minors to work at trillium. we kept looking for duran and people that knew him. one of his crew leaders agreed talk from prison. >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: bartolo dominguez says he knew some of the teens, but didn't know they we being abused or having their wages taken. >> (speang spanish): >> altan: dominguez says that duraran his company with his brother ezequiel. >> (speaking spanish):
>> altan: ezequiel duran was never charged in the case. we went looking for him, and were surprised to find himh living ws family in a quiet ohio suburb. (doorbell rings) hi, i was wondering if ezequiel's here. >> no, he's not. >> altan: he's not, okay i gave them my number and left. it felt like a dead end. but a few minutes later, as i was driving away, the phone rang. it was ezequiel. >> altan (speaking spanish): ): >> (speaking spani
>> altan (speaking spanish): >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: a month after this call, ezequiel duran was found dead in his home with a gunshot wound to the head. his death was ruled a suice. ter months of looking for him while he was wanted by the fbi, we tracked down pablo duran. he agreed to meet us in mexico city.
is pablo someone you would ever consider dangerous? >> i wouldn't. i think he's like a rat in a corner, though. i think he'd do anything to get out of that corner if you trapped him in it. he's so stubborn, he believes exactly what he's doing. and he's going to come acrosse likedn't do anything wrong, if you could get it out of him and stuff.n' and, "it wme." i mean, he'll have the biggest story like you can't... and he'll... if you didn't know better, you'd almost believe him. >> (speaking spanish):
>> altan: one of your sub-contractors was yo own son, pablo duran, jr. and your son, he did have minors on his crew, right? that's what he pled guilty to. >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: you never talked to him about it, or... >> no.lt >>: the federal judge in the case said that your son pablo, jr., took the fall for you, for what you knew. >> (speaking spanish):
>> altan: well, i think it was because there were so many tminors working on differ crews that... how could you miss them? >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: as a sup... somebody in charge... >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: so you neverct had any inten with, knowledge of, any minors that were there? no. >> aan: so are all these people, are they lying?
>> (speaking spanish): >> altan: did you know a man named aroldo castillo? >> no. >> altan: and so you never had any convertions? you never met aroldo? >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: i'm going to read you what the government says about your relationship. >> okay. >> altan: they say, "castillo serrano talked regularly on the phone with pablo duran, sr. those discussions included t fact that minors were having an ssier time getting across the border and that thuld therefore focus their activities on teenagers." what do you say to that? >> (speang spanish): >> altan: so you say you did not have any relationship? you don't even kw who he is? >> no. >> altan: and you never spoke on
the phone with him? >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: so you do have a memory, then, of speaking with him at one point on the phone? >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: did trillium know that ththere were minors workine, do you think? >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: how does it work?iu do the trimanagers check the plants, or would they be able to see? tell me a little bit. >> (speaking spanish):
>> altan: so the relationship is a trillium supervisor and a bcontractor would be seeing each other every day? >> yes. >> altan: and they would be seeing the workers? >> y. >> altan: so in your opinion, would trillium have been able to see that there were minors working there? >> (speaking spanish): >> altan: trillium ended its contract with pablo durany shorter the raid, and has not been charged with any wrongdoi. for more than a ye, they refused our interview requests. but finally, the company's vice president agreed. when you heard the words "human trafficking," had you encountered this in the busine before? >> no, i had not. i was stunned.
my first reaction was, i couldn't believe that anything like this would be happening on rms or in our environment. looking back on it, i was naive. i did not understand what i undersnd today of how prevalent it is around the country.po and i am rible for the day-to-day operations, and it happened here on my watch. and so i do have a duty too everything we can do to ensure tis doesn't happen again and to spread the word t others are aware of this. this occurred, it did occur under my watch, but we did not know this and we did not see it. >> altan: how do you not see teenagers, the ages of your own kids, you how do you miss that? >> we don't supervise those contract service providers. so our managers, our supervisors, they're checking at the work is complete, they're checking that the work tts done adequately, but they're not actualling this person to go here or that person to go do this. so we're not directl
supervising the people doing that work. an >> abut there was someone inside who might have known what was going on: ezequiel duran. although he was fired in 2014, for several years he was actually a trillium manager at the same time that the company he ran with his brother was bringing in workers. were you aware that he wasee both an emplnd a contractor?'t >> i delieve i knew that, no. >> altan: because if he was,a then anager who was also running the contracting companies, he's somebody who would have known potentially that there were kids being brought in. >> i don't know. my... my understanding... i ellieve that i don't remember the date that ezeqeft employment with the company. as we came to understand that people weren't comporting with our lues and what our expectations were, we made
manges-- we asked them to leave the company and e improvements, changes. >> altan: i mean that, would be something... to have an employee who's also the contractor seems like a joint employment issue. so, you know, that's one thing that's been confounding to us, is that ezequiel was both a manager who was overseeing plants, and also was running this contracting company, haba, run by... with his brother. >> we we obviously lied to. we were obviously misled at numerous points in this processs an said, we've done a lot of learning as this process has commced. was everything correct? no. are we learning? are we making changes? are we making improvements? yes.d act swiftly when law enforcement alerted us to this problem?ye have we complied and cooperated with the investigation? yes. >> altan: should trillium have been held responsible in any way for what happened on their property? >> i'm confident that if the federal officials would
have believed that and would have found wrongdoing on our part, we would have been held accountable. in that way-- criminally. >> altan: trillium has l partnered withding anti-trafficking organization to implement reforms and train their employees. the company would not allow us to film inside their plants, but they sent us this video to show what working there is like. they say they're trying to reduce using contractors to find workers, but haven't eliminated them completely. and they're currently ring. back in guatemala, the teens families would eventually t their deeds back, as a result of aroldo castillo's sentencing. his mother had been holding
>> alberto (speaking spanish): >> altan: alberto still tends the fields he worked with his oldest son, but he hasn't seen him in almost four years. be alo's son and some of the other teens from guatemala were given special visas forra victims icking. some are in school, others are working. but even today, the ones wve found are still too afraid to go on camera.
two months after we'd interviewed him in mexico, pablo duran attempted to return to the s. he was arrested at the borderis anow in ohio facing labor trafficking charges. the u.s. attorney says the investigation is ongoing. >> until our laws and our systems and our society held responsible everyone that profits from human trafficking, we're not ending human trafficking. and we don't know how many other cases are out there, and the crime continues.
>> once you went inland it looked like a bomb hit puerto rico.ar >>rator: the hurricane ravaged the island. a decade earlier, a ncial storm devastated its economy. >> who gets left paying the bill? >> banks get out and everybody else gets stuck with the bill. >> narrator: frontline and npr investigate...e >> almost all rehouses were empty. generators, blue roof material...were just not there. >> narrator: "blackout in puerto rico". >> got to pbs.org/frontline to learn more about laborin traffiand how widespread it is. >> they're an easy prey. they're vulnerable and easy to to victimize, and they're alonee >>ow states are dealing with the problem... >> the more we learned, the more detroubling it was from a l perspective... >> then watch our past films
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hrmen from all over the world are trailblazinggh gender barriers in difficult and oftenn dangerous enviro. they are defying cultural norms and finding ways to pursue their dreams and change their futur in our first story, we visit enegal, where a woman's family criticized her for choosing to abe a mechanic rather th tailor, hairdresser, or secretary. now she runs femme auto, an auto repair shop focusing on employing top focusing on employing top qualified women technicians.