Women trapped in modern day slavery tell their story

February 12, 2013

We spoke with two women who were brought to our area from Vietnam and promised the American dream of making money and supporting their families back home.

But as the weeks and months - then years - went by, they say they were never paid a penny. Every dollar they supposedly "earned" went back to pay their captor to keep them in bondage.

These two human trafficking victims lived a life of slavery few could have imagined, and it was happening behind closed doors in an ideal York County neighborhood.

"I just want to die then. I'd rather die," victim #1 said.

"You have no hope, no trust, no love," victim #2 said.

The women were trafficked illegally across international lines from their homes in Vietnam by a woman named Lynda Phan.

"She said 'do you want to help your family,' and I said 'sure' and I take the chance," victim #2 said.

They say Lynda promised them a job for three years, room and board, an American visa, and money for their families.

"So day by day, months by month, I waited three years, after three years nothing, I didn't see anything," victim #2 said.

For three years, victim #1 said Lynda did not pay her.

"No, not at all. Not a penny," victim #1 said.

They were forced to work in a nail salon by day, and as domestic servants by night, but every cent they made went back into Lynda's pocket, to pay for a pillow, blanket, and a bed in Lynda's home.

"She tell me to do whatever she wants and she tell me I can talk when she allows me to. She tells me where I can go and where I can't go and what I can do and what I cannot do," victim #1 said.

"I was not allowed to do anything. I was not allowed to talk to anybody. You have no social life," victim #2 said.

Investigators say Lynda even forced these women to get married so they could continue to live in the country as her slaves.

"They control virtually every aspect of their victims' life. Victims are not free to leave. The victims make no money," said Bill Walker of the Department of Homeland Security.

Homeland Security investigators broke the case when a client from the nail salon called them, suspicious something was wrong.

"Within one week of us receiving the call on that case we were able to rescue two victims of human trafficking," Walker said.

But Bill Walker says most cases of human trafficking are never reported.

"Human traffickers manipulate their victims usually through some sort of force, fraud or coercion. And ultimately introduce their victims into lives of forced labor or forced prostitution," Walker said.

Homeland Security officials are in the process of helping the two women get permanent, legal residency because these women are victims of the human slave trade.

Lynda Phan and her two male co-conspirators pled guilty to federal charges of committing forced labor trafficking and marriage fraud.

Phan didn't respond to our request for an interview.

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