- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Prosecutors divulged new details Tuesday of an illegal immigrant fake family, and announced new human smuggling charges against the abusive couple.

Santos Teodora Ac-Salazar and Olga Choc Laj had previously been charged with forcing two girls, ages 15 and about 10, to go to work and turn over their incomes. But now the couple stands charged with smuggling and harboring the girls.

All four people involved are illegal immigrants from Guatemala.

Ac-Salazar and Ms. Choc Laj, who were a couple, paid smugglers to connect them with unrelated children they could use for their journey north and who they could pretend were their children when they showed up at the U.S. border, according to a new indictment.

Bringing children earned the adults speedy release into the U.S., where they disappeared into the shadows, ignoring their immigration court dates, the indictment says,

“It was part of the conspiracy and Ac-Salazar and Choc Laj planned and agreed that they would separately enter the United States unlawfully with a child in order to more easily be allowed entry into the United States and to avoid prolonged detention by U.S. immigration authorities,” the grand jury charged.

The case is an early test of the government’s ability to go after fake families, thousands of whom are believed to have exploited lax border policies in recent years in order to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The Washington Times reported on the case in November.

According to the new indictment the adults refused to enroll the children in school, and kept the girls isolated by lying to others in claiming they did not speak Spanish.

The girls were also ordered to hide when social workers came to their home.

Federal agents say the 15-year-old was forced to work and the couple took almost all of her income to support them.

After sneaking into the U.S., the couple also had a child of their own, and put the younger smuggled girl to work changing diapers, feeding the baby and cleaning the house, authorities say.

The younger girl’s age is listed as “approximately 10 years old” — an indication of just how little authorities have been able to learn about her, other than that she was forced to pretend to be the daughter of Al-Salazar.

Ac-Salazar has already been convicted on child abuse charges in Illinois court.

Court records show state charges against Ms. Choc Laj were dismissed last month.

Both are still in custody of law enforcement, federal prosecutors said, and are slated to be arraigned on the new charges Wednesday.

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