Today, 13-year-old “Monica” was awarded more than $93,000 in restitution from Dora Alicia Valle who pleaded no contest last July to one felony count each of human trafficking and slavery.
When Monica was only eight, Valle paid a coyote to smuggle the child out of El Salvador. Once in the United States and far away from all she knew and loved, Monica was forced for two years to work six days a week, often 50 hours per week at a restaurant in Pacoima. When she wasn’t at the restaurant, she was ordered to clean the home Valle shared with her boyfriend, Estrada Melvin Sandoval.
Bet Tzedek, along with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), represented Monica and helped calculate the restitution request, granted in full and including lawful wages, meal and rest breaks, minimum wage liquidated damages, and pre-judgment interest.
“Monica has endured more than most in her young life,” said Bet Tzedek’s Matthew DeCarolis. “We hope this award brings her a measure of justice and the courage to pursue her dreams of going to college, becoming a social worker, and helping other children.”
Last month, Valle was sentenced to five years in state prison for human trafficking and slavery. Sandoval pleaded no contest last year to one misdemeanor count each of false imprisonment and battery and was sentenced to 18 months in County jail.
Sadly, Monica’s case is part of a growing and terrifying trend in Los Angeles, the wage theft capital of the country. Trafficking helplines here have seen an increase in the number of cases reported in each of the last three years. One third of these victims are minors. Bet Tzedek’s Employment Rights Project and Child Immigrant Advocacy Project work to protect these children. Through hard-fought litigation against abusers and community work with CAST and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Bet Tzedek is working to reverse the trend. Bet Tzedek pursues civil penalties and damages against traffickers to secure a better future for their victims and to deter future abuse.