JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The owners of two migrant labor camps were found guilty of hiring drug addicts and homeless people at minimum wages and then selling them crack cocaine, cigarettes and beer at inflated prices, putting them into huge debt to their employers.
A jury found Ronald Evan, 60, guilty of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, and both he and his wife, Jequita, were each found guilty of selling more than 50 grams of crack cocaine.
Prosecutors said that the couple recruited men from homeless shelters, charged them $50 a week for room and board and put them to work in potato and cabbage fields for minimum wages. At the end of the work day, workers were allowed to purchase crack cocaine, cigarettes and beer at inflated prices on credit.
When they were paid on Saturday, workers often found they owed money to Evans and his wife.
"Causing homeless people to incur large debts by selling them crack, cigarettes and beer forces these individuals into a form of servitude that is morally and legally reprehensible," Perez said in a statement.
Ronald Evans was found guilty of 57 of the 58 charges against him. Jequita Evans was found guilty of 49 of the 51 charges against her.
He faces a possible life sentence and a fine of up to $2 million for the criminal enterprise conviction. They face a 10 year to life sentence and fine of up to $4 million each for the crack cocaine charge.
As they were led away in handcuffs, their family members began sobbing loudly and had to be consoled in another room by defense attorneys.
"We had expected they would have been found not guilty," Kuritz said.