Ricardo Batres Pleads Guilty to Labor Trafficking
Ricardo Batres, 47, of Crystal, pleaded guilty to one count of labor trafficking and one count of insurance fraud just as a jury was being picked for his trial, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced.
The plea deal recommends Batres receive a sentence of nine months in the workhouse. After serving four months, he could be considered for work release or electronic home monitoring. He also will be on probation for five years and a third charge against him will be dropped. Sentencing is set for Jan. 15.
“The things we were most concerned about is that he do some real time in the workhouse and that he be debarred, meaning that he cannot work on state or federal projects,” Freeman said in a news conference after the guilty plea Monday. “Human trafficking is a real crime. It’s a crime that hits you right in the gut.”
While the charges against Batres covered months of illegal activity, his admissions during his guilty plea centered on just one employee. That employee, on Aug. 23, 2017, had been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Batres amitted that he paid a $6,000 bond to get the man released and pledged that the man would be living with him and would make future court dates.
In return, Batres said he expected the man to work for him and pay off the debt of the bond. Batres also acknowledged under question by his attorney that he did set up a contract for how the money would be paid back, nor did he keep track of how much the man gave him.
Senior Hennepin County Attorney Morgan Kunz also questioned Batres, getting him to admit that he knew the $6,000 would be returned to him at the end of the case against the man. So, the man did not owe Batres money, but it was a way to make sure the man worked for him, Batres admitted.
Batres also admitted that on Jan, 2, 2017 he filled out worker’s compensation insurance forms and marked down that he had no employees, when in fact, he had a number of employees working for him. That allowed him to pay an insurance premium much lower than if he had truthfully put in the number of employees, Batres acknowledged.
According to the criminal complaint, in 2017, Batres recruited men to work for his company, American Contractors and Associates, LLC. He knew the men were undocumented workers and used that leverage to force them to work long hours at low pay and without adequate safety protection. He told his employees they would lose their job and be deported if they went to a doctor for injuries suffered on the job.
One of Batres’ employees was seriously injured when a prefabricated wall fell on him. His co-workers drove him to the hospital and Batres caught up to them and translated for the man with the doctors. Batres lied to the hospital staff, telling him the accident occurred at Batres house, rather than at a job site, because he knew he did not have worker’s compensation insurance, the complaint continues.
As a result, the injured man’s care was paid for by taxpayers and charities. More than $31,000 was covered by Medicaid, more than $10,000 by Minnesota Care and an additional $4,200 was paid by Hennepin County Charity Care program, the complaint states.