Millcreek couple charged with human trafficking for labor

Nov 20, 2023, 5:25 PM


A Murray auto shop owner was arrested Wednesday by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and accused of selling bath salts and oxycodone pills from his business. (File photo)

(File photo)

MILLCREEK — A Millcreek couple was charged Monday with helping two relatives enter the United States illegally, and then forcing them to work to pay off their debts while threatening to injure other family members if they didn’t.

Luis Mendez-Portillo, 50, and Lesbia Lisseth Figueroa Gallardo, 44, are charged in 3rd District Court with two counts of aggravated human trafficking for labor, a first-degree felony; human smuggling and benefiting from trafficking and human smuggling, second-degree felonies; four counts of forgery, a third-degree felony; and, two counts of unlawful possession of someone else’s identification documents, a class A misdemeanor.

Mendez-Portillo arranged for two women from Guatemala to get into the U.S. in November 2022.

One woman told investigators “She decided to come to the United States to earn money to send home to Guatemala to provide for her children. Her uncle, Mendez, told her he knew coyotes and would help her get across the border. (She) took approximately $16,000 in loans from Guatemalan banks and sent half the money to Mendez and the other half went to the coyote which was arranged by Mendez,” according to charging documents.

But when she arrived in Salt Lake City, Mendez allegedly told her that she owed him $20,000.

Both women were put to work at fast food restaurants managed by Gallardo and another relative. One woman says “she never filled out any employment paperwork, she was paid via a cash card, and she never knew how much they were being paid because Mendez and Gallardo managed her earnings and Mendez controlled the cash cards. At one point, Mendez told (her) that if she did not pay him what she owed, he would have her youngest son’s fingers cut off and sent to her mother in a box. She paid $11,500 to Mendez and Gallardo,” according to the charges.

The women were not allowed to have cellphones and were constantly watched by either Gallardo or Mendez-Portillo, the charges allege.

“Mendez also told (the second woman) not to escape because he had connections to people. Mendez threatened her that if she didn’t pay him back, something would happen to her family,” according to the charges.

One woman did escape, however, in January and the other in April. Prosecutors say both women are now living out of state.

Investigators said they learned that both Mendez-Portillo and Gallardo are also in the United States illegally. On Thursday, they served a search warrant on their residence and seized passports and identification documents belonging to the two women, as well as fraudulent residency and Social Security cards, the charges say.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Andrew Adams

Cameras capture man trying to break into Saratoga Springs home, trailer

A homeowner on Tuesday was hoping to identify the stranger who spent roughly 30 minutes on his property overnight Sunday and tried to enter his home multiple times before entering his trailer.

16 minutes ago

Alta resort...

Eliza Pace

Utah’s ski industry contributed $1.94 billion in nonresident visitor spending during the 2022/23 season

Out of state visitors spent a record of $1.94 billion at Utah ski areas during the 2022/2023 ski season, according to data from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. 

1 hour ago

(KSL TV)...

Casey Scott

Casey Scott gives away gas cards and Olympic swag 100 days before Paris Games

We're now less than 100 days away from the 2024 Paris Olympics, so Casey Scott also had some Olympic swag to give away!

1 hour ago

(Brian Champagne, KSL TV)...

Josh Ellis

Rap artist NBA YoungBoy arrested in Utah on various drug, weapons charges

Rap artist NBA YoungBoy was arrested in northern Utah for investigation of multiple drug and weapons charges.

2 hours ago

IOC excludes Russian and Belarusian athletes from Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremonies....

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: How to stay ahead of the 2024 Olympics scams

As Utahns know firsthand from 2002, the Olympics can be a bit chaotic with millions in an unfamiliar place. The situation is sure to entice opportunistic con men with Olympic scams.

14 hours ago

overview of Moab, a city nestled in red rock...

Daniel Woodruff

New Moab development aims to put dent in workforce housing crisis

When we talk about Utah’s housing crisis, one of the most extreme examples is Moab. Housing there is scarce and expensive, especially for the workers who keep the tourist town running.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Millcreek couple charged with human trafficking for labor