A Fresno man was convicted Friday in Fresno Superior Court in one of California’s first farm labor trafficking cases, the District Attorney’s Office said.
The jury found Efren Alvarez, 53, guilty of one felony count of human trafficking and three felony counts of extortion. It was the first such conviction ever for Fresno County.
In committing the crimes, prosecutors said, Alvarez utilized a complex scheme in which he obtain the victims’ visas, passports and other documents and held them as collateral for a loan. He then threatened to harm the victims and report each of them to immigration officials if they did not continue to work for him.
The victims ultimately sought help form the United Farm Workers, who then reached out to law enforcement.
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The case was prosecuted by deputy district attorney Lynette Gonzales, who was assisted by senior district attorney investigator Shari Hall. They thanked the Fresno Police Department, the FBI, the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and Centro La Familia Advocacy Services for their commitment to end human trafficking.
Before the verdict, Alvarez was free on bail. After the verdict, Judge Jonathan Conklin ordered Alvarez to be held in the Fresno County Jail until his sentencing Oct. 1. He faces up to 15 years in prison.