April 12, 2017, Leesburg, FL
Carlos Garcia-Diaz was arrested on charges of human trafficking of a child after forcing a 17-year-old girl to pick blueberries. This is the first arrest for forced labor for the Lake County Sheriff’s office.
The Sheriff’s Office was tipped off about the girl by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that aids refugees as they transition to the United States.
Deputies said Garcia-Diaz smuggled the young woman into Arizona from Mexico about a year ago. Since that time he has been forcing her to pick blueberries to pay back what she owed him for bringing her into the country.
“She said if she didn’t want to work at any particular day or time, he would beat her and force her to go back into the fields,” said Jim Vachon of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
The Department of Children and Families is providing much-needed care for the girl.
Garcia-Diaz remained in Lake County Jail after failing to pay a $25,000 bail. However, a sheriff’s spokesman added that it is not clear if Garcia-Diaz could make bail considering he also is an illegal alien under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. Garcia-Diaz was previously deported and came back into the country with the young woman, who is related to him.
Deputies do not believe the blueberry farm owners knew the child was being forced to work on their farms.
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