In Alleged Labor Trafficking Scheme, Illinois Woman Held Guatemalan Families Captive in Her Basement

Lead Photo: Illustration by CSA-Archive / Getty
Illustration by CSA-Archive / Getty
Read more

For undocumented immigrants, it’s not just our broken immigration system that they’re up against. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people and/or companies ready to prey on them in one of their most vulnerable moments. And sometimes, it’s even members of our own communities. In Cicero, Illinois, a 49-year-old woman is facing labor trafficking charges after officials found 19 adults and 14 children from Guatemala in her home.

A criminal complaint detailed that Concepción Malinek, a dual citizen of the United States and Guatemala, held more than 30 people in her basement against their will. Reportedly, she helped them arrive to the United States, sometimes paying for their airfare, and then, she allegedly told them that they owed her thousands of dollars for getting them to the US. The complaint stated that Malinek got them jobs at a factory – where she would drop them off and pick them up – and she would take most of their earnings to pay their debt, but also rent. If they tried to leave, she would reportedly threaten to keep their children.

With mattresses “all over the place,” mold, and sewage emptying out into the basement, agents described the conditions as “deplorable.”

Neighbor Francisco Alejandre always assumed something was up. “Three, four adults and a bunch of kids that came out like they’d never seen food before and just started carrying stuff in there,” he said to ABC 7 Chicago. “I always thought that was weird.”

On Thursday, Malinek went to court, where a judge denied her bail.