Micronesian Couple Pleads Guilty to Withholding Passports for Labor Trafficking

DES MOINES, IA – A Micronesian couple entered a guilty plea in federal court yesterday in Des Moines to withholding passports for labor trafficking in southern Iowa.

The US Attorney’s Office said Nesly Mwarecheong and Bertine Weires admitted to recruiting two young men from Micronesia to come to the United States in December 2019 to work in a meat processing plant. The defendants promised the two victims they could work in the U.S. and send money back to their families. Once in the country, the couple confiscated the victims’ passports and obtained jobs for them at a meat processing plant in Ottumwa. Each week, the defendants took the victims to cash their paychecks before seizing almost the entire amount and leaving them with only $20 each week.

Authorities say the couple limited and monitored the victim’s communication with family and physically and socially isolated them.

The defendants are scheduled for sentencing on February 15th. Each face a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.