Carthage couple facing human trafficking charges

Mar. 14—A Carthage couple made an initial appearance Thursday in Jasper County Circuit Court on charges they provided false documentation to four other immigrants and forced them into unpaid servitude.

Jose Rabanales-Miranda, 47, and Judith Cancinos-Huinac, 50, were arrested a week ago in the course of a rape investigation by Carthage police. They are charged with four counts each of trafficking for the purposes of slavery or forced labor and single counts of trafficking in stolen identities.

Probable-cause affidavits filed with the charges this past weekend state that detectives looking into the reported rape learned of victims of human trafficking. The charges were filed with respect to two adult female and two adult male victims.

One of the women told police that Rabanales-Miranda and Cancinos-Huinac provided her with seven fraudulent documents in two different names so she could obtain employment. They then purportedly forced her to work around their home without pay and withheld her immigration papers and passport to keep her from fleeing.

The first victim said the couple then held the threat of legal repercussions and deportation over her if she did not continue working without pay or told anyone what was going on. The defendants seized control of her pay card and gave her just $20 per month to get by on, according to the affidavit.

A second female victim disclosed that the couple forced her and her juvenile son to work without pay. She reported that they separated her from her son and attempted to gain custody of him by telling others that she abandoned him and turned into a sex worker.

One of two male victims, other than the juvenile, told investigators that the couple provided him with four fraudulent documents so he could find work. They quoted him a price for the favor and then kept increasing the price to keep him working for them around their home, church and a food truck.

He told detectives that the defendants also threatened him with legal troubles and deportation if he told anyone about their extortion of his labor.

A fourth victim reported that Rabanales-Miranda helped him get employment and that the couple then forced him into work around their home, church and a food truck with threats of legal repercussions.

One of the affidavits states that Rabanales-Miranda corroborated the victims' accounts in an interview with a detective and admitted providing them with fake identities and receiving free labor and pay in exchange.

"He admitted what he did was wrong, and he was sorry for extorting people," Detective Trent McMain wrote in the affidavit.

The couple were detained March 8, and no-bond warrants were issued for their arrests the following day. Judge Joseph Hensley denied requests from their attorney to set bonds at their hearings Thursday, citing the seriousness of the allegations.

Defense attorney Jay O'Donnell told the judge in asking for bond on Cancinos-Huinac that she was not a flight risk because her family has lived in the Carthage area since the 1990s and she has documentation pending. Rabanales-Miranda, on the other hand, apparently has no documentation, and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold has been placed on him.

The judge told O'Donnell that his response to the bond request for Cancinos-Huinac would be the same "whether she was here legally or illegally," given the nature of the charges.

The affidavit filed with the charges on Rabanales-Miranda states that a search warrant was served on his residence and that "10 or more means of identification for seven different individuals" were found with the defendant's own papers. Many of those documents appear to be fraudulent, according to the affidavit.

The couple had their preliminary hearings set for April 11.

The rape investigation that led to discovery of the alleged human trafficking entails one of the same female victims and led to the arrest Feb. 28 of Jose M. Cortez-Bamaca, 35, a resident of Carthage. The victim alleges that he sexually assaulted her on two occasions in December.

Cortez-Bamaca, who is charged with two counts of first-degree rape, also appeared in court Thursday and had a preliminary hearing set for April 11. He also is being held without bond at this time.