Smuggled To The US To Be A Surrogate, Woman Claims She Was Abused And Used For Her Womb

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Smuggled To The US To Be A Surrogate, Woman Claims She Was Abused And Used For Her Womb

The woman was used as free labor, fed only beans and forced to sleep on the dining room floor.


Given a bus ticket and 100 pesos for meals, she left her home in Guadalajara, a bustling Mexican city known for tequila and mariachi music, and headed to the United States for a job, according to court documents.

The young woman said she agreed to be a pregnancy surrogate for Esthela Clark, a 47-year-old from Florida, and planned to deliver the child and return to Mexico with a few thousand dollars in her pocket.

Federal authorities said Clark hired "coyotes" to smuggle the woman through the southwestern border of Texas.

But not long after the woman reached Clark's home in Jacksonville on a Sunday in December 2012, things seemed much different than promised. For more than two years, the woman - known in court documents only as "Y.L." - was held captive in a small apartment, where federal authorities allege she was used as free labor, fed only beans and forced to sleep on the dining room floor.

Clark would allegedly engage in sexual intercourse with her boyfriend - then extract his semen from condoms and try to inseminate the woman using a syringe.

"Clark would instruct Y.L. to lie on pillows with her legs pointed in the air, naked from the waist down, and stay in that position for 20 minutes for the procedure to 'take,' " according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

When that did not work, the complaint alleges, Clark became physically abusive.

Clark was indicted last year on nine charges, including "alien smuggling," involuntary servitude and sex trafficking.

She pleaded guilty this week to forced labor, according to the U.S. attorney's office in the Middle District of Florida. As part of a plea agreement, the other eight charges were dismissed.

Clark faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Her sentencing hearing is set for June 28.

Her attorney, Thomas Bell, said the facts in the case have been "grossly exaggerated" and "we expect to have evidence at the sentencing hearing that will mitigate the circumstances of the crime to which she admitted."

Bell said Clark's boyfriend, who was identified in the criminal complaint as Ronald Castellanos, was deported to Central America before his client's arrest.

"Y.L." told authorities that she met Clark through a friend in Mexico.

Clark has family in the same Mexican town where the woman is from, her attorney said. He declined to say why Clark and her boyfriend wanted a child, but he noted that Clark is a mother to several grown children with an ex-husband and needed a surrogate to raise another.

Court documents say Clark told Y.L. that she and her boyfriend were looking for a woman to carry their baby. The surrogacy, Clark told her, would be legal and supervised by a doctor, according to the court records.

It would pay $3,000 to $4,000.

The woman agreed to the deal - but she would never become pregnant.

When she arrived in Jacksonville on Dec. 2, 2012, the situation took a turn, authorities alleged.

"Clark told Y.L. that she was not allowed to leave because Y.L. spoke no English, the area was dangerous and Y.L. would most likely be killed," according to documents in the plea agreement. "Clark also advised Y.L. that Clark read Tarot cards, and if Y.L. ever tried to hide anything from Clark, Clark would find out."

Clark soon started trying to inseminate the woman, according to the records.

"This would take place three to four times per day during periods when Y.L. was ovulating," according to the court documents.

Three months later, with no positive results, Clark became physically abusive, beating the woman and putting her on an all-bean diet during which she lost 65 pounds, records indicate. She also prohibited the woman from changing her dirty clothes and then, other times, ordered her to strip down, according to the plea agreement.

Clark told the woman that her relatives would be harmed if she tried to escape, according to the documents.

The woman also told police that she was Clark's "maid."

"Y.L. was responsible for caring for Clark's dog, doing household chores, cleaning, and doing Clark's shopping, all without pay," according to the documents.

Court documents say that at one point, the woman called her brother in Los Angeles; he then phoned Clark and told her that he would pay the money she had spent on the woman's trip to the United States. But Clark allegedly demanded more than the original cost.

The woman told authorities that Clark had also taken her identification, claiming that she was going to get a passport for her, but she never did.

Two years after the woman arrived in the United States, she reportedly used someone's cellphone to call home. Relatives told her that Clark had visited them and told them the woman "wanted nothing to do" with them, according to court records.

"The sister advised that Clark informed them that Y.L. could not speak with her family because that caused stress which interfered with the attempts at insemination," according to the plea agreement.

Bell, Clark's attorney, said not all of the facts are as they appear.

For one thing, he said, while Clark did suggest to the woman that the neighborhood was dangerous, Bell said the woman was not held captive. He said Clark bought the woman a gym membership and that the two would exercise together and socialize with others around town.

At times, he said, Clark would return to Mexico to visit family and leave the woman on her own in Florida.

Federal authorities opened an investigation in 2015 after a woman reported to police that she worried that Y.L. might be a victim of human trafficking, according to the criminal complaint. She told police she had seen Y.L. "washing cars in very cold weather with insufficient clothing and found the behavior to be strange" and also observed "physical signs of abuse," according to the court documents.

The woman brought Y.L. into her home and called police.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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