York County human trafficking: ‘Three years of … long hours, often seven days a week, for no pay’
York County’s most celebrated human trafficking case in recent years came in 1993 when nearly 300 Chinese men and women were smuggled into the United States aboard the Golden Venture. The steamer ran aground in New York and some of the men were assigned to the York County prison. There, they stayed for several years, without being charged, until released. “The way these guys bring people to the United States is not much better than slave ships in the 19th century,” attorney Craig Trebilcock, who represented the captives, said in 1998. Here, legal advisers leave a York restaurant with Zheng Xin Bin, a Golden Venture passenger, shortly after Zheng was granted asylum in 1999 after a six-year wait. Also of interest: Underground Railroad museum in York would honor achievements of William C. Goodridge and When York County rolled up its red carpet to people of color and Golden Venture survivor’s family escaped venom of Snakeheads.
York County has played host to three human trafficking cases in the past 20 years.
And one would have thought that York County’s association with slavery ended before the Civil War when fugitive slave hunters, lawfully, crossed the Mason-Dixon Line in search of their prey.
First, we had the Golden Venture case in 1993, which was thrust on York County because it had room in its prison.
Just four years ago, South Korean women worked in two brothels in York County to pay off their transportation costs to America. (See details below.)
Recently, three people were charged with trafficking for keeping two Vietnamese women and forcing them to work at nail salons lest they be turned over to immigration officials… .
Prosecutors should do more to shine light on cases such as the brothels and nail salons. And courts should make examples out of those involved in human trafficking.
It’s still pretty remarkable, and unacceptable, that victims of human trafficking literally held hands with hundreds of York countians at the nail salon.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News editorial (2/15/10) pulls together several threads in these local human trafficking cases:
It just doesn’t seem to add up.
Lynda Phan essentially enslaved two young women from Vietnam to work in her West Manchester Township nail salons for three years.
Three years of working long hours, often seven days a week, for no pay — and under emotionally demoralizing circumstances as the former Fairview Township salon owner reportedly demeaned the women she greedily exploited.
On Thursday, she was sentenced in federal court on guilty pleas to human trafficking and other charges.
Three months in jail.
Three months for three years of forced labor.
It just doesn’t add up.
A co-defendant in the case got off even easier: Duc Cao Nguyen must serve one year of probation.
Shouldn’t the jail time for engaging in modern American slavery be at least equal to the amount of time the victims suffered?
Three years? Maybe six if you count each case separately and run the sentences consecutively?
Many people who commit nonviolent crimes get more time in jail than Lynda Phan will get for creating an emotional and mental prison for two young women who came to America — granted, illegally — to help their families by sending home money.
Yes, she also must serve house arrest for 270 days, bringing her loss of freedom closer to a year.
Yes, she must pay restitution to the victims.
Yes, she lost her home and other possessions.
Still, three months in jail followed by nine months of hanging around wherever she’s living now doesn’t seem like much retribution — or deterrent to others who might consider exploiting young immigrants with American dreams and desperate families in their homelands.
At least these two young victims — named A.V. and T.V. in court documents — weren’t forced to be sex slaves, as authorities have alleged in some other local human trafficking cases.
But the ordeal has left emotional scars for T.V., who said in court through a translator that “you treated me worse and worse” and “I was punished in many different ways… . You broke my heart and my spirit was broken little by little.”
T.V. graciously forgave Ms. Phan, saying that “nothing good comes from hating a person or treating them harshly.”
That’s a nice sentiment — and probably a healthy approach to life.
But with all due respect, true justice in this case demands that Ms. Phan be treated more “harshly.”
Facts about the nail salon case:
Lynda Phan, Duc Cao Nguyen and Justin Phan were charged with conspiracy to commit forced labor trafficking, forced labor and marriage fraud for keeping two young Vietnamese nationals in a Fairview Township home and forcing them to work at an area nail salon under threat of being turned over to immigration services.
The result: All three pleaded guilty in October. Lynda Phan and Nguyen were sentenced Thursday in federal court — Phan to 90 days in jail, 270 days house arrest and one year probation and Nguyen to one year of probation. Lynda Phan has paid $250,000 of $300,000 in court-ordered restitution. Justin Phan is scheduled for sentencing next month, and his plea agreement calls for one year of supervised probation.
Also of interest:
From York Daily Record/Sunday News files: In 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement uncovered a network of brothels along the East Coast, including two in York County, where women were kept as sex slaves. The network smuggled South Korean women into the U.S. and forced them to work in the parlors to pay off their transportation debts. The women were told that, if they left the business before paying off their debts, they would be turned over to police or immigration authorities, federal complaints stated.