The wife of an Ellenwood preacher pleaded guilty Friday to a type of human trafficking, while her husband admitted he did nothing to stop the modern-day slavery.
When the victim arrived at the Babbs’ home in Ellenwood, she found there was no wedding.
“Human trafficking, while taking on many forms, consists primarily of those who prey on the vulnerabilities of others for personal gain. That was, in fact, the case in this matter as a young woman from Swaziland was being forced into labor and was unsure of who to turn to for help,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin said in a news release. “The FBI continues to aggressively pursue all allegations of human trafficking matters and is proud of the role that it played in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”
Juna Babb kept the victim working at her home as a housekeeper from June 2005 through February 2007 and threatened her that she owned the couple for her travel to the U.S. and would be arrested or deported because she was in the U.S. illegally, the prosecutor said.
Michael Babb, a minister, knew of his wife was harboring the victim in the United States was compelling her to work, but he failed to notify authorities and later denied to FBI special agents that the victim worked in their home, according to the indictment against him.
Juna Babb pleaded guilty to harboring an alien for financial gain, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Michael Babb pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for concealing his wife’s actions and for lying to federal agents. He faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The couple agreed to pay a total of $25,000 in restitution to the victim for her unpaid labor.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 6 before Chief United States District Judge Julie L. Carnes.
“This case reminds us that modern day slavery is occurring in our communities. This young woman believed that she was traveling to the United States for a brief visit to help with a wedding. Instead, she was forced to work for the defendants for more than two years. It is especially disturbing that the victim was exploited by a minister and his wife,” prosecutor Yates said.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Saturday, July 09, 2011