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Maury Island resident indicted for human trafficking

The owner of a landscaping business allegedly forced undocumented workers into forced labor and now faces 10 federal charges.

VASHON, Wash. — A 44-year-old Maury Island resident faces 10 federal felony charges related to human trafficking in the form of forced labor. 

Jesus Ruiz-Hernandez was originally indicted in November 2022 for transporting, harboring and bringing in an undocumented worker for financial gain. The superseding indictment, which was returned this week, had seven additional charges.

Maury Island is connected to Vashon Island by a narrow sand spit.

“Undocumented people are particularly vulnerable to forced labor schemes because they believe they do not have the same basic rights as U.S. citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “In this case, the grand jury found that Mr. Ruiz-Hernandez sought to enrich himself by forcing undocumented workers to labor for him and that he benefitted financially by bringing undocumented workers to western Washington.”

In the spring of 2017, Ruiz-Hernandez allegedly used force, threats of force and physical violence to force an adult to work for him. According to the indictment, the victim also suffered aggravated sexual abuse. 

From July 2018 to August 2021, Ruiz-Hernandez also allegedly forced a second victim to work. That victim was also allegedly threatened.

Both victims were brought to the United States for financial gain, according to the indictment.

Ruiz-Hernandez is also charged with transporting and harboring a third victim for financial gain between May 202 and August 2021.

When Ruiz-Hernandez was arrested on the first indictment in November 2022, a judge determined there were conditions he could safely be released, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He was out of custody until March 30.

After his arrest, law enforcement found he was allegedly harboring five additional workers who do not appear to be U.S. citizens. An investigation into how they came to be employed by Ruiz-Hernandez is under investigation. 

A judge ruled he cannot be safely released back into the community and posed a flight risk.

Ruiz-Hernandez's trial is set for May 15.

Watch: More than 20 people in Washington indicted after large-scale drug trafficking investigation 

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