Local couple faces life in prison on charges relating to forced labor

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

McALLEN, Texas – Two Edinburg residents have been indicted on multiple charges to include hostage taking, labor trafficking and financially benefitting from the labor of three victims, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Today, a federal grand jury returned a seven-count superseding indictment against Eduardo Javier Gomez, 31, and Margarita Alvarez, 40. They are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker for their arraignment in the near future.  

Both had been previously indicted for hostage taking and labor trafficking. The superseding indictment returned today adds the charge of financially benefitting from the forced labor.

According to the complaint originally filed in the case, authorities learned that three individuals had allegedly been taken at gun point and forced to work in McAllen for approximately two weeks. 

The investigation revealed the victims were allegedly being harbored separately and forced to work without pay. The two male victims were forced to sell drugs outside of a club, while a female was required to act as a nanny and housekeeper at the house Gomez and Alvarez shared, according to the charges. All three victims were also allegedly made to work at a local fireworks stand Gomez managed.

If convicted, the couple faces up to life in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eliza Carmen Rodriguez is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.