News/France: France Cops Crack Illegal Work Ring

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Subject: News/France: France Cops Crack Illegal Work Ring
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Jun 27 2000 - 09:07:39 EDT


                   France Cops Crack Illegal Work Ring

APO 4/30/00 9:19 PM

  The Associated Press.

    By PIERRE-ANTOINE SOUCHARD
  Associated Press Writer
    PARIS (AP) -- Police have dismantled an illegal work ring that brought
deaf foreigners to France and forced them to peddle trinkets to restaurant
patrons for practically no pay, judicial sources said.
    About 20 people were arrested throughout France, including six
Ukrainians placed under investigation and jailed late Saturday. The
Ukrainians are suspected of organizing the secret operation and hiring
foreigners without working papers, judicial sources said on condition of
anonymity.
    The alleged ringleaders, who were also deaf, are thought to have lured
hundreds of people from Eastern Europe to France, promising them papers and
a job.
    The workers were forced to sell key chains and lighters to diners in
restaurants, going from table to table with notes explaining their
disability.
    Their work earned the leaders $275,000 a month. Police, who dismantled
the ring Friday, said the workers were living in miserable conditions and
were barely paid.
    A similar case came to light in 1997 in the United States. An
exploitation ring in New York and other cities had been earning one million
dollars a year from deaf Mexican immigrants forced to sell cheap trinkets
in subways.
    After four victims fled and notified authorities, police found 57 people
living as virtual prisoners in two New York apartments. Smaller operations
were broken up in Chicago and Los Angeles.
    The U.S. ringleaders, most of them also deaf, pleaded guilty to crimes
ranging from criminal conspiracy to immigrant smuggling and enslavement.


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