Family forced immigrants to work in exploitation case

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by Alicia E. Barrón

azfamily.com

Posted on July 21, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 21 at 9:15 PM

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Four members of a family face federal charges for allegedly exploiting immigrants at their business in Flagstaff.

Flagstaff residents Huong Thi “Kelly” McReynolds, 58, Joseph Minh McReynolds, 36, Vincent Minh McReynolds, 32 and James Hartful McReynolds, 60, were arrested Wednesday as part of a two-year investigation dubbed Operation Broken Promises.

The family is accused of exploiting the labor of immigrant Vietnamese nationals since 2001 at their bridal store named “I Do, I Do Wedding Shop.”

The investigation uncovered that five victims had been brought into the United States with the promise of a better life, educational opportunities, happy marriages and United States citizenship.

Soon after arriving to the U.S. the immigrants realized the McReynolds family would not hold up their end of the bargain. They were instead forced to work in the McReynolds home and business.

“Huong Thi McReynolds and her family lured these victims to the United States on the promise of the American dream; what the victims got instead was indentured servitude,” U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke said. “The defendants created a climate of fear inside their home and business by carrying firearms, berating the victims and threatening to physically harm them and shame their families in Vietnam. They weren’t just exploited for their labor, they were robbed of their basic human dignity.”

Houng McReynolds faces all five counts named in the indictment including charges of alleged violation of conspiring to engage in force labor, violation of unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of forced labor and conspiring to engage in marriage fraud. The other three family members also face various charges pertaining to this case.

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