Courts & Crime

Prison time asked in Paso Robles ‘slave labor’ case

A Paso Robles couple who ran a senior care business faces 21 months in federal prison and might be ordered to repay more than $700,000 to former employees the couple were convicted of harboring illegally.

On Monday, the defendants’ scheduled sentencing was delayed until next month.

Maximino and Melinda Morales, who were accused of terrifying their employees on the job and threatening to harm their families abroad, are to be sentenced at 11 a.m. Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. They pleaded guilty in May to felony charges of conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has recommended a sentence of 21 months in prison, three years of supervised release (similar to probation), and restitution to the immigrant victims’ families of about $737,000, representing wages owed to the former employees.

The Moraleses owned and operated Four M’s Inc., which included four residential elder care facilities in Paso Robles.

They recruited and hired Philippine nationals to work as live-in caregivers, conspiring to fraudulently obtain visas for them to travel to the United States and work in Paso Robles, according to prosecutors.

According to prosecutors, they paid the undocumented immigrants less than minimum wage and threatened to hurt them if necessary.

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