California Care-Center Owners Charged With Human Trafficking, Wage Theft

September 8, 2018 Updated: September 9, 2018    

A family of four that owns several adult residential and child-care facilities in California were charged with human trafficking, rape, and labor exploitation on Sept. 7 after a year-long investigation, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Joshua Gamos, 42; Noel Gamos, 40; Gerlen Gamos, 38; and Carlina Gamos, 67, were charged with 59 criminal counts committed while operating Rainbow Bright between 2008 and 2017. The allegations came to light in 2014 after an employee complained to the U.S. Department of Labor about inadequate pay and poor working conditions, according to a criminal complaint.

The Gamos family was accused of preying on undocumented or vulnerable members of the Filipino community for labor exploitation by placing advertisements in a Filipino newspaper within San Mateo County.

After being hired, employees were forced to work nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and slept on the floor or in garages, according to the criminal complaint. The employees also weren’t allowed to talk to each other, had their requests for higher pay refused, and weren’t allowed time off from work.

The workers were paid about $1,000 to $1,200 per month, according to the criminal complaint.

The four defendants allegedly threatened to turn the employees over to U.S. immigration officers, and confiscated their passports to deter the workers from leaving.

Alleged Crimes Were ‘Despicable’

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra described the alleged crimes of the Gamos family as despicable.

“We must not turn a blind eye to abusive labor practices,” Becerra said in a statement released on Sept. 7. “No worker in the United States should live in fear or be subjected to violence, abuse or exploitation at the hands of their employer.”

The attorney general estimated the amount of the unpaid wages and overtime at $8.5 million.

Becerra revealed at a press conference that one of the defendants was also charged with rape, but wasn’t more specific.

“One defendant is being charged, with three counts … of rape against a female employee he was trafficking,” the attorney general said.

According to San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office jail records, Joshua Gamos was charged with forcible rape.

During the investigation, authorities also seized 14 illegal assault weapons—including three “ghost gun” rifles. Ghost guns are firearms without serial numbers that allow individuals to bypass background checks and registration regulations, according to the statement.

“These weapons were found, in some cases, in those facilities or in the residence of the owners of these facilities,” Becerra said.

Becerra said in a tweet on Sept. 7 that along with firearms, a number of luxury cars were also seized, which could result in additional charges.

The charges against the Gamos family are a result of a joint investigation conducted by multiple federal and state law-enforcement agencies.

The defendants are currently being held at two locations, the Maguire Correctional Facility and the Maple Street Correctional Center.

Carlina Gamos’s next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12, while the other three defendants are expected to appear in court on Sept. 19.

According to the state Department of Justice website, human trafficking is a crime that involves “compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts.”

California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the country. In 2016, 1,331 cases of human trafficking were reported in the state, with 147 of these being labor-trafficking cases.

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