By Emily S. Rueb
A dozen leaders of a California-based ministry have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that they lured homeless people into forced labor with the false promise that they would be provided meals and shelter, prosecutors said this week.
Instead, the authorities said, they were imprisoned in group homes and coerced to forgo welfare benefits and panhandle up to nine hours a day, six days a week “for the financial benefit of the church leaders.
Robert Brewer, the United States attorney for the Southern District of California, called it “the most significant labor trafficking prosecution in this district in many years.”
“The indictment alleges an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with promises of a warm bed and meals,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity.”
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