Oregon Woman Pleads Guilty for Role in Forced Labor and Visa Fraud Scheme Involving Thai Restaurant Workers
Defendant financially benefited from co-defendant’s use of debts, fraud, threats of financial and reputational harm, and other means to compel victims to work at restaurants
WASHINGTON – Tanya Jumroon, also known as Thunyarax Phatanakit Jumroon, 59, of Beaverton, Oregon, and a naturalized citizen originally from Thailand, pleaded guilty today in a U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, to financially benefitting from forced labor, visa fraud conspiracy, and filing a false federal income tax return, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon, Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon of the FBI in Oregon, and Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation’s Seattle Field Office. Jumroon waived indictment by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty to an information filed by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division.
According to the defendant’s plea agreement, admissions in court, and other court documents, between 2011 and 2014, the defendant, her then-husband, Paul Jumroon, and other associates fraudulently obtained E-2 visas to bring Thai nationals into the United States to provide cheap labor at two restaurants located in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Ridgefield, Washington. The restaurants were owned and operated by the defendant and Jumroon at the time, but have since been sold and are under new ownership.
Paul Jumroon used the fraudulently obtained E-2 visas to entice four forced labor victims to come to the United States from Thailand. After the victims arrived, Jumroon used inflated travel expenses, debt manipulation, threats of deportation, serious financial and reputational harm, verbal abuse, and control over identification documents, among other means, to compel them to work 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, for minimal pay at the restaurants he co-owned and operated with the defendant. The defendant witnessed Paul Jumroon’s mistreatment of two of the victims, and she benefitted financially from the victims’ forced labor at the restaurants. As part of the defendant’s guilty plea, she agreed to pay the four victims a combined $131,391.95 in restitution for their unpaid labor in connection with the forced labor scheme.
The defendant further admitted to filing multiple false tax returns with the IRS by failing to report cash income earned from the restaurants between 2012 and 2015. As part of the plea agreement, the defendant agreed to pay tax due and owing in the amount of $120,384 to the IRS.
“The Justice Department remains committed to combatting human trafficking, holding those who choose to exploit vulnerable individuals accountable, punishing those who profit from these crimes, and securing restitution for exploited victims” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “Today’s guilty plea exemplifies the hard work of the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to honor that commitment.”
“Human trafficking schemes are seldom carried out by a single person. Tanya Jumroon profited off of her then-husband’s actions while turning a blind eye,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “In too many of these cases, we later learn that someone close by could have taken action to stop the abuse and intimidation of others and did not. I implore all Oregonians to remain vigilant and watch for the signs of human trafficking in their communities. Your attention and perceptiveness could help a victim in need.”
“These victims believed the Jumroons were offering them a chance at a better life. When they arrived in the U.S., however, they faced false promises, forced labor and abuse. Victims such as these often live in the shadows and find it difficult to get the help they need. We are grateful for the community members who were able to bring this case to our attention so we could work together to bring an end to the physical, psychological and financial exploitation,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
“Forced labor schemes, such as the one employed by the Jumroons, are deplorable crimes that have no place in today’s society,” said Darrell Waldon, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Seattle Field Office. “Falsely reporting income and expenses associated with such schemes will continue to be vigorously investigated by IRS-CI Special Agents.”
The defendant faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for financially benefitting from forced labor, five years in prison for visa fraud conspiracy, and three years in prison for filing a false tax return. Her sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 24 before United States District Judge Anna J. Brown.
Co-defendant Paul Jumroon previously pleaded guilty on Feb. 14 to forced labor, visa fraud conspiracy, and filing a false federal income tax return. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 18, also before Judge Brown.
Attorney General Sessions issued a proclamation on January 31 commemorating January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
The District of Oregon is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.
This prosecution is the result of the joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, with assistance from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and Portland Police Bureau. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hannah Horsley and Scott Bradford of the District of Oregon, and Lindsey Roberson of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.