General · January 9, 2021

North Carolina: Thuy Tien Luong Convicted of Forced Labor

Defendant’s scheme to compel the victim’s labor included physical violence, a fabricated debt, paycheck confiscation, and threats of violence and reputational harm, among others

(STL.News) The Justice Department announced Friday that after a five-day trial, a federal jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, found Thuy Tien Luong, 37, of Charlotte, North Carolina, guilty of forced labor after finding that Luong compelled the labor of one of her nail technicians at a nail salon she owned and operated in Davidson, North Carolina.

“More than 150 years after the United States ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, human trafficking remains a problem in our cities, our towns, and our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband.  “Like slave masters of old, human traffickers are adept at targeting the most vulnerable members of our society and using coercive and violent tactics to intimidate and compel their services.  We must and will confront and defeat this vile conduct, like this defendant’s, and the Department of Justice will continue its vigorous and systematic efforts to hold human traffickers accountable, bring justice to their victims, and prevent them from harming others.”

“Through the infliction of mental and physical abuse, Luong despicably preyed upon the victim’s hardships and personal vulnerabilities for her own selfish financial gains,” said U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina.  “Forced labor schemes are an assault on human dignity and have no place in modern society.  My office remains committed to combatting all forms of human trafficking and prosecuting perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Traffickers treat human beings as commodities, and this case is no exception.  They use force, fraud or coercion to prey on people’s vulnerabilities,” said U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez.  “HSI special agents will continue to focus their efforts on eradicating this heinous crime; no one should be subject to human trafficking.”

Evidence presented at trial established that Luong compelled the victim’s labor from October 2016 to June 2018 through a variety of coercive means.  Luong physically assaulted the victim on several occasions, including pulling her hair out, stabbing her with nail salon tools, and pouring acetone on her head.  Luong also threatened to ruin the victim’s reputation with her family by threatening to tell them information about the victim which would negatively impact the victim’s relationship with her family.  Luong falsely claimed that the victim owed her a debt of $180,000, and falsely alleged that the victim’s poor work performance caused Luong to lose this amount of money.  Luong even executed a debt contract with the victim in the amount of $180,000, and threatened to send the victim to jail if she did not repay all of it.  In reality, the victim was a good employee.  Luong often treated the victim in a humiliating and demeaning fashion, all while having her work 10 hours a day for 6 to 7 days a week.  The totality of Luong’s coercive scheme caused the victim to fear Luong and forced her to continue working for Luong until a particularly violent assault led to the victim reporting Luong to the Davidson Police Department and to Luong’s subsequent arrest in June 2018.

A sentencing date has not been scheduled at this time, but it will occur before District Court Judge Kenneth D. Bell.  The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and must pay mandatory restitution to the victim as well.

The case is being investigated by HSI with assistance from the Davidson Police Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani M. Ford of the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Maryam Zhuravitsky of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.