Family charged with human trafficking at Bay Area day care centers

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A family of four operating an adult residential and child care company in the Bay Area have been arrested and charged with human trafficking and other labor-related crimes, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Friday at a news conference in San Francisco.

The four defendants, identified as Joshua, 42; Noel, 40; Gerlen, 38; and Carlina Gamos, 67, were charged with 59 criminal counts, including rape of a worker, stemming from the operation of their six Rainbow Bright care centers in South San Francisco, Daly City and Pacifica. Most of the facilities were residential homes, Becerra said. Four of the facilities provided adult residential care and two provided child care. 

The defendants allegedly targeted members of the Filipino community, many of whom were new to the United States, for labor exploitation. While serving the arrest warrants, agents also seized 14 illegal assault weapons, including three "ghost" rifles without serial numbers. In addition, a loaded pistol was found on a table in the garage of a home used for child care with a blanket over it.

In a news conference, Becerra said additional criminal charges will be filed related to the firearms.

Becerra said Rainbow Bright was also cheating taxpayers by failing to pay its fair share of state income taxes, workers compensation and state unemployment insurance. 

He said the number of workers exploited in this case could be in the hundreds and that the abuses took place over 10 years. 

 "It was the workers who helped bring this case to light, and it is the workers who are the greatest victims of Rainbow Bright and its operations," Becerra said. "While the employees were providing by all accounts loving care, they were doing so under egregious circumstances."

Rainbow Bright's owners are accused of forcing employees to work nearly 24 hours a day and sleep on floors and in garages, and locking them outside in the rain when the owners were not home. The complaint alleges that Rainbow Bright executives deterred the employees from leaving by regularly threatening to turn them over to U.S. immigration officials and confiscating some employees' passports.

The charges are the result of a year-long investigation by the Attorney General's Office Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement (TRaCE) Task Force, and included several state and local law enforcement agencies. Since its creation in 2014, Becerra said, the task force has identified close to one-quarter of a billion dollars in unreported business income.

Becerra urged member of the public who may suspect similar crimes in their neighborhoods to contact the TRaCE task force at (855) 234-9949. 

"What's most painful as we discuss this is this is happening in neighborhoods," Becerra said. "This could be happening in your backyard, in your neighborhood, with people you believe are living a regular life and being cared for."