Chicago-area woman charged with keeping 33 undocumented immigrants as slaves

A Chicago-area woman is accused of keeping dozens of immigrants from Guatemala in her basement in deplorable conditions and forcing them to work.

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Concepcion Malinek, 49, was arrested Tuesday after federal authorities raided her 1,900-square-foot home and found 19 adults and 14 children inside, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. She is charged with forced labor.

In a Thursday court hearing, prosecutors said Malinek helped the immigrants come to the United States from Guatemala. Then, she told them they owed her thousands of dollars for her assistance, got them jobs at a Romeoville, Illinois, factory and made them turn over most of their wages to her, prosecutors said.

One 15-year-old girl was allegedly given an ID saying she was 27 and made to work at the factory.

The immigrants were forced to live in the basement of Malinek’s home, which federal agents said was “deplorable” with mold, cockroaches and sewage backup, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Malinek allegedly threatened to turn the immigrants in to authorities if they didn’t comply.

Malinek’s defense attorney, Raymond Pijon, said during Thursday’s hearing that Malinek was simply trying to help the immigrants, many of whom are relatives of hers. He said she spent her own money to fly them to the United States and put her home at risk by letting her stay there.

“There was a lot of good heart behind that,” Pijon said, “because she knows what’s happening in Guatemala.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole ordered Malinek into federal custody and denied her bond, saying her flight risk was “quite enormous.”

Malinek could be facing a maximum of 20 years per count in this case, WGN-TV reported.