MINNEAPOLIS - A Twin Cities contractor is accused of bringing undocumented workers to Minnesota and threatening to report them to immigration officials if they complained about being underpaid and about working in dangerous conditions.
Ricardo Batres is charged in Hennepin County with labor trafficking, theft by swindle and insurance fraud. Batres operates American Contractors, based in Crystal.
The complaint says the 46-year-old Batres leveraged his information about the employees' immigration status to force them to work long hours for low pay and without adequate safety protections. Prosecutors say when workers were injured, Batres told them they would lose their jobs and be deported if they sought medical attention.
“The defendant mistreated and abused these workers for his own profit. His insurance fraud was part of a much broader pattern of exploitation against the workers he employed," explained Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman. "I am so proud of the work our Commerce Fraud Bureau did to investigate these worker abuses.”
The case is one of the first times a labor trafficking charge has been brought in Minnesota. It is the result of information reported by labor unions, the Center for Workers United in Struggle (CTUL) and The Advocates for Human Rights.
The complaint says the number of workers involved peaked at 12 in the summer of 2017.
Batres was arrested Tuesday and he is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday or Thursday. Prosecutors have asked for bail of $200,000.