Man charged with labor trafficking for exploiting undocumented workers sentenced

Updated: January 15, 2020 06:13 PM

A construction sub-contractor convicted of labor trafficking and insurance fraud will spend up to nine months in jail.

Ricardo Batres admitted Wednesday morning that he had made "terrible mistakes" and caused damage to his Hispanic brothers while running a construction company that worked with some of the biggest developers in Minnesota.

Man accused of labor trafficking pleads guilty

Batres was charged in 2018 after prosecutors said he hired and exploited undocumented immigrants who worked on construction sites across the Twin Cities.

The case was closely watched by immigration advocates and construction unions that claim Batres is an example of how the industry exploits undocumented labor.

Batres is the first person to be convicted of labor trafficking charges in Hennepin County. In court, victim advocates read prepared statements from his former employees who said they were not fully paid for working excessive hours and were blocked from seeking medical care after they were hurt on the job.

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"This man took advantage of us since we did not know our rights," wrote one unidentified victim. Another victim described Batres as "a wolf dressed as a sheep."

Added another victim, "I do not feel like I have the same freedom to go anywhere because I fear those connected with Mr. Batres. I must be careful wherever I go. I am always fearful. … I am worried that Mr. Batres, or his connections, will come to hurt me."

Fred Bruno, Batres' attorney, downplayed the crimes as business mistakes in an effort to save money that had little impact on the victims who were well compensated for their work.

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But, Hennepin County prosecutor Morgan Kunz described Batres' business model as a significant scheme that included threatening to report workers to immigration authorities if they complained about the work conditions.

"They were afraid they would be arrested and deported," Kunz said.

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Joe Augustine

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