Seasonal migrant workers are often the victims of human trafficking as they are being transported between farms throughout the state and the country.
A traffic stop in Brandon last month lead to the arrest of two Phenix, Alabama women.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office HCSO detective and spokesperson Larry McKinnon, besides charges of driving without a valid driver’s license and tag on her vehicle as well as possession of cocaine, Kathleen Roberson, 22, and her passenger Jessica Roland, 30, were also charged with human trafficking, as they had five Mexican passengers, now being held on immigration violations.
McKinnon said that on February 4, at approximately 5:15 pm, HCSO Deputy Wes King was on patrol near the intersection of Falkenburg Road S. and Progress Blvd. when he spotted a 2003 Kia Sorrento without a tag.
Deputy King stopped the vehicle and identified the driver as Roberson, who had no valid driver’s license.
King arrested Roberson and found that she was carrying nearly $6,000 in U.S. cash. He also observed Roland sitting in the rear cargo area with a small amount of cocaine in her possession.
Further investigation revealed that Roberson was transporting the five Mexican citizens in the vehicle from Alabama to Immokalee, Florida. The five passengers were determined to be in the U.S. illegally, McKinnon said.
Following the arrest, the U.S. Border Patrol was notified and an agent was dispatched to the scene, who then seized the vehicle and the $6,000.
Roberson was taken to the Hillsborough County Jail, where she was held without bond pending federal charges for Human Trafficking.
The five individuals determined to be illegal immigrants were also held without bond pending deportation.
The focus of this case is on those that are in the country illegally and, find themselves become victims of human trafficking although misunderstood and often confused with smuggling, which, according to law enforcement officials, are by no means the same thing.
“These individuals were already in the country illegally and were basically being transported from place to place likely for seasonal work,” McKinnon said, adding that farmers will not do it themselves.With no other means of transportation, many illegal migrant workers are forced to be transported by traffickers raising the crime to a different level.
“Human trafficking is a crime against a person,” McKinnon said. “Often, without a choice they are being transported in an unsafe or deplorable condition, payed barely enough to survive.”
McKinnon said that the investigation continues as such crimes are currently a lot more prevalent due to the migrant season.
For more information you may visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.