NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WRIC) – This week, a court indictment was unsealed revealing that four people, including a Midlothian man, were charged in an alleged human trafficking scheme that took place for at least four years at a Williamsburg laundry business.
On Thursday, Dec. 8, an indictment was unsealed revealing that Ana Patricia Landaverde, 47, of Williamsburg, Jeffrey Dean Vaughan, 64, of Williamsburg, and George William Evans, 68, of Midlothian, and one other unnamed person allegedly employed undocumented people from Central America at their commercial laundry business, Magnolia Cleaning Services in Williamsburg.
The indictment states that allegedly, Landaverde, Vaughan and Evan engaged in forced labor, money laundering, and immigration-related offenses, such as harboring undocumented non-citizens. Between 2018 and 2022, records allegedly show that the business employed 121 employees who were potentially victims of labor trafficking.
Labor trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, is “a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion.” Labor trafficking can include working for little to no pay in order to repay debt, forced labor and child labor. Traffickers may use violence, threats or other types of coercion to make people to work against their will.
According to the indictment, one victim was allegedly brought to the United States when she was 13 years old and had to work nights while also attending school during the day.
Another victim alleged that she worked under threats of deportation and physical violence. At the same time, she was forced to pay to live in the laundry facility, where she did not have a kitchen, shower or bath.
The 121 employees mentioned in the indictment all had invalid or mismatched Social Security Numbers. This could have been a result of the fourth unnamed person mentioned in the indictment, who allegedly sold prospective employees counterfeit permanent resident cards and social security cards if they did not have proper documentation to work in the United States. Prospective employees were referred to this person by Landaverde, Vaughan and Evans, according to the indictment.
Landaverde, Vaughan and Evans made their initial appearance in court on Thursday, Dec. 8. Vaughan and Evans are each being held on a $25,000 bond.
This investigation was conducted by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, a Virginia task force that collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutors to combat human trafficking in the Hampton Roads Region.