OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – A carnival owner from Arizona is facing multiple counts of human trafficking and unlawful possession of another person’s identification after two victims managed to escape and inform police Friday.
The owner and operator of Midway West Amusements, Inc., Jordan Nathaniel Jensen, has been arrested after allegedly keeping multiple employees against their will and exploiting them for monetary gains, according to the Utah Attorney General’s Office SECURE Strike force, the local Mexican Consulate, and the Asian Association of Utah.
“Law enforcement was alerted that the company was illegally inducing more than 20 Mexican nationals to work for the company’s traveling carnival. All the workers were legally in the United States with H2B Visas and Passports that had been kept from them to keep them from leaving the group,” the probable cause statement reads.
Government officials state all the victims are safe tonight, under the supervision of the Mexican Consulate.
Jensen, 31, currently faces three counts of Human Trafficking, a second-degree felony, and nine counts of Possession of Another’s Identity Documents, a third-degree felony.
According to the Utah Attorney General, the case was discovered by two Mexican nationals who managed to escape the company. Officials state the escapees then contacted the Mexican Consulate and provided crucial information that was useful to law enforcement.
The victims say, “Midway West Amusements kept their visas and passports from them to prevent the workers from leaving; essentially holding their legal status in the United States hostage.”
“These laborers were living and working in inhumane conditions that could be dangerous to their health or even their lives. They were paid a paltry amount and had costs deducted on top of that,” shares Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “By withholding their H2A Visas, Midway West Amusements was coercing them to work under these conditions. That is a classic case of human trafficking or indentured servitude.”
“At the scene of the warrants, the laborers were afraid they had done something wrong. We assured them they had not. Many of these men remind me of my own father’s experience when he came to this country. They are easily exploited. Not because they are weak or uneducated. They are just desperate to provide for their families and too often victimized,” Reyes continues.
“We are outraged by the forced labor conditions Mexican temporary workers with H2B visas were subjected to by this company and are currently supporting the victims with the aid of our partners: Utah Legal Services and the Asian Association of Utah”, remarks Jose Borjon, Consul of Mexico in Salt Lake City.
“It is only with the collaboration between our offices that we can prevent these abuses,” Borjon concludes. “We encourage all of those who are in the same situation to denounce it. Do not be afraid, individuals and labor rights must be protected, and we all must fight human trafficking.”