The operators of a Batesburg, SC harvesting company held guns while they made migrant workers pick crops, under paid the workers and threatened deportation if they didn’t work hard enough, the United States attorney’s office of South Carolina said.
A federal grand jury indicted the operators of Balcazar Nature Harvesting, Enrique Balcazar, 35 and Elizabeth Balcazar, 19, both of Batesburg, with conspiracy to commit human labor trafficking and fraud in foreign labor contracting Friday, U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis announced. Enrique was indicted on two additional charges of labor trafficking.
“Although the indictment speaks for itself, those who exploit the system and abuse these vulnerable workers will find no refuge here in South Carolina,” Ellis said in a statement. “Our office will utilize all available resources to bring such offenders to justice while rescuing and restoring victims in the process.”
Through their company, the Balcazars provided seasonal harvest labor to South Carolina farms, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The two forced victims to work excessive hours, failed to pay proper wages and threatened to deport workers who did not work produce enough. They also took workers’ passports and held them at gun point, including shooting near the workers at least once, the office said.
The Balcazars could go to prison for 20 years and face fines up to $250,000.
The case was investigated by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elliott B. Daniels and Carrie Fisher Sherard are prosecuting the case.
Contact information for the Balcazars’ legal representation could not be located. Further documents and information about their case has been sealed away by the court.