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Couple Sentenced For Human Trafficking

MIAMI (CBS4) - A South Florida couple has been sentenced to federal prison for forcing nearly 40 Filipino immigrants to work at South Florida country clubs and hotels against their will.

Federal prosecutors said Sophia Manuel and Alfonso Baldonado Jr., owners of Quality Staffing Services Corporation,  forced 39 Filipino nationals to work in their jobs by threatening them with deportation.

On Friday Manuel, 41, was sentenced to 78 months in prison; Baldonado Jr., 46, was sentenced to 51 months in prison.

Last September Manuel and Baldonado pled guilty to a number of charges including visa fraud and making false statements to the government.

The US Attorney's office said the couple would seize the passports of the workers upon arrival at their Boca Raton home. Workers were forced to stay in the quarters provided and were not allowed to leave without an escort.

Prosecutors say that by holding fear of deportation over the heads of the workers, the couple was able to keep them in deplorable conditions with inadequate food and water. The workers feared deportation because, in many cases, they also had debts back home that could lead to arrest or imprisonment.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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