Ellenwood Woman and Minister Husband Plead Guilty to Human Trafficking-Related Offenses

ATLANTA—JUNA GWENDOLYN BABB, 56, and MICHAEL J. BABB, 54, of Ellenwood, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal court to felony offenses related to a scheme to compel the labor of a young woman from the Kingdom of Swaziland in Southern Africa.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This case reminds us that modern-day slavery is occurring in our communities. This young woman believed that she was traveling to the United States for a brief visit to help with a wedding. Instead, she was forced to work for the defendants for more than two years. It is especially disturbing that the victim was exploited by a minister and his wife.”

In Washington, D.C., Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said, “The Department is committed to prosecuting individuals who engage in schemes to exploit and compel the labor of vulnerable persons.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin said, “Human trafficking, while taking on many forms, consists primarily of those who prey on the vulnerabilities of others for personal gain. That was, in fact, the case in this matter as a young woman from Swaziland was being forced into labor and was unsure of who to turn to for help. The FBI continues to aggressively pursue all allegations of human trafficking matters and is proud of the role that it played in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Atlanta said, “Few crimes are more shocking than the trafficking of human beings in this country. No one should have to live in a world of isolation and forced servitude. Together with our federal, state and local partners, ICE HSI is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the indictment, and information in court: In March, 2005, JUNA BABB, while visiting the Kingdom of Swaziland Africa, invited the victim, then a 29-year-old cook, to travel to the United States to cater for a family wedding. In fact, there was no wedding, and JUNA BABB then knew that she intended to harbor the victim as a housekeeper in the United States for the purpose of JUNA BABB’s financial gain. Subsequently, upon the victim’s arrival at the defendant’s home in Ellenwood, Georgia, JUNA BABB concealed her from detection by law enforcement while compelling her to work in the defendants’ home as a housekeeper from in or about June 2005, through in or about February 2007. JUNA BABB also threatened the victim with the debt that JUNA BABB said the victim owed for her travel to the United States, and with arrest and deportation because she was in the United States illegally.

MICHAEL BABB, a minister, knew of his wife’s harboring of the victim in the United States, and he knew that his wife JUNA BABB was compelling the victim’s labor. However, MICHAEL BABB failed to notify an authority of the United States as soon as possible of the alien harboring, and affirmatively concealed his wife’s crime by denying that the victim worked as the defendants’ housekeeper to special agents of the FBI.

JUNA BABB pleaded guilty to the offense of harboring an alien for financial gain, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ incarceration. MICHAEL BABB pleaded guilty to the offense of misprision of a felony for concealing his wife’s criminal conduct and for lying to federal agents. This offense carries a maximum penalty of three years’ incarceration. The defendants have agreed to pay a total of $25,000 in restitution to the victim for her unpaid labor. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for October 6, 2011, at 3 p.m. before Chief United States District Judge Julie L. Carnes.

This case was investigated by special agents of the FBI and ICE-HSI.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard Moultrie, Jr. and Stephanie Gabay-Smith, Trial Attorney Nicole Lee Ndumele, and Deputy Chief Karima Maloney of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.