CHICAGO — Two brothers from Chicago have been arrested on a labor trafficking charge for allegedly forcing undocumented Mexican immigrants to work in the construction trade.

Agustin Arias Lopez, 30, and Juan Arias Lopez, 32, conspired to illegally bring two individuals from Mexico to the United States on the condition that they work for the brothers’ construction business and repay the purported costs of their transport into the U.S., according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

After they arrived in Chicago, the undocumented immigrants worked 12-15 hours per day, seven days per week, in exchange for weekly payments from the Arias Lopez brothers of $800 to $1,000, the complaint states. From that sum, the immigrants were required to pay the Arias Lopez brothers $500 per week, which the brothers claimed went towards not only the costs of the transport but also rent and other utilities, as the immigrants resided in Agustin Arias Lopez’s unfinished basement in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, the complaint states.

In the basement the immigrants resided in the Englewood neighborhood, for weeks they were allegedly only given a bucket in which to go to the bathroom in and were forced to bathe in the sink. Then, after they were allegedly sold a bed to sleep on, they were tasked with remodeling the basement for the defendants, who lived upstairs at the property.

The complaint alleges that the Arias Lopez brothers threatened the immigrants with violence if they did not pay the money. As an unwritten amount of "interest" to their debt began to accrue, the immigrants were told to come up with the money “the easy way or the hard way" and, on one occasion in November 2021, Agustin Arias Lopez allegedly pointed a handgun at the two migrants but another individual intervened. As the situation progressed further, the individuals were pressured to sign over family land in Mexico to satisfy the debts.

The complaint charges the Arias Lopez brothers with conspiracy to knowingly bring, transport, harbor, and induce aliens to come to, enter, remain in, and reside in the U.S. The brothers were arrested Thursday. A detention hearing in federal court in Chicago is set for March 28, 2022, at 2:00 p.m.

The charge in the complaint is punishable by up to ten years in federal prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

You can read the full criminal complaint here:

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