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Paso Robles human smuggling suspects arrested

ABC7 Eyewitness News HD covering Los Angeles and Southern California.

March 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Paso Robles couple has been arrested by the FBI in an alleged human smuggling scheme.Maximino Morales, 44, and Melinda Morales, 46, were taken into custody Tuesday morning, March 30, by federal agents.

The two offered no resistance.

The pair was charged with knowingly and intentionally concealing, harboring and shielding illegal aliens within the United States.

Investigators say the pair lured Filipino nationals from the Philippines with promises of legitimate work and a better life.

The Filipinos were then forced to work at four residential care facilities under oppressive conditions.

All four facilities are in the Paso Robles area.

Investigators say the workers were intimidated with threats of deportation.

Authorities say once the victims arrived in the United States, they were forced to work long days, seven days a week, with little pay.

Investigators say the couple confiscated the victims' passports and threatened to harm their families and/or deport them if they left their employ prior to paying off their debt.

The charge of harboring illegal aliens carries a maximum statutory penalty of ten years in federal prison, per alien.