Aurora couple charged with child labor trafficking

An Aurora couple are accused of forcing an undocumented teenager to work and keeping her earnings.

Santos Teodoro Ac-Salazar, 23, and Olga Choc Laj, 30, are charged with forcing labor through force, threats of force and the threatened abuse of the law and legal process, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

Choc Laj allegedly accompanied the girl, who is now 17, into the U.S. from Guatemala near El Paso, Texas, in February 2019, according to prosecutors and court documents. Choc Laj allegedly gave false identifications to immigration authorities and forced the girl to work as a roofer in Florida before they moved to the Aurora home.

Ac-Salazar eventually joined them at the Aurora home with a younger girl he’d brought from Guatemala, according to court records. The couple forced the teen to work at a factory and a cleaning job and took all of her earnings, telling her she had to pay off a large debt to a smuggler who had helped bring her into the country. The teen was not allowed to go to school or communicate with her family in Guatemala.

She was also forced to perform household chores, including taking care of Choc Laj and Ac-Salazar’s infant child, prosecutors said.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took protective custody of the girls and the infant in February after reports of child abuse, according to court records.

Ac-Salazar pleaded guilty to an aggravated battery charge for hitting the younger girl, now 11, with a belt and phone charger cable, officials said. He served his sentence in the Kane County Jail and is now in the custody of immigration officials.

Choc Laj remains held at the Kane County Jail on $200,000 bail on a charge of aggravated battery to someone younger than 13, according to court records and the Kane County sheriff’s office.

A preliminary hearing in the labor tracking case is scheduled for Oct. 15, prosecutors said.