Three Georgia men were sentenced to federal prison for their role in a human trafficking scheme that forced individuals to work on farms in the state.

According to a release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), the three men all pled guilty to various offenses related to the trafficking network.

Javier Sanchez Mendoza Jr. was sentenced to serve three decades in prison after being charged with Conspiracy to Engage in Forced Labor. Aurelio Medina was handed a sentence of more than five years after pleading guilty to Forced Labor. Similarly, Yordon Velazquez Victoria received 15 months for his role and a conspiracy charge.

Mendoza and Medina entered the country illegally and will be subject to deportation after completing their prison sentences.

“These men engaged in facilitating modern-day slavery,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “Our law enforcement partners have exposed an underworld of human trafficking, and we will continue to identify and bring to justice those who would exploit others whose labors provide the fuel for their greed.”

The three criminals were located through “Operation Blooming Onion,” which targeted a network that brought foreign workers from Central America under the H-2A visa program and forced them to work for low pay in poor conditions.

According to the DOJ, Mendoza recruited more than 500 Central American citizens and began “withholding the workers’ identification papers and threatening them and their families in their home countries to force them to work for little or no pay and in deplorable conditions.”

“These defendants are being held accountable for the horrors of human and labor trafficking that they inflicted upon their victims, in the name of profit,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Thanks to the great work done by our agents, along with our state, local and federal partners, this case was successfully investigated and prosecuted, preventing more innocent people from being victimized.”

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Cooper Moran is a reporter for The Georgia Star News and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]