CHICAGO (CBS) — A Cicero woman is accused of keeping dozens of Guatemalan people in her basement and forcing them to work, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Nineteen adults and 14 children were all brought in by federal agents, and that woman, Concepcion Malinek, is now facing labor charges.
In the bungalow those families called home, most of the 33 people were kept in the basement, where, according to the complaint, they had to stay unless they were being transported to and from work in the van out front.
“I can’t believe it. They were really hiding them or something,” said Sergio Orozco.
Orozco has called the street home for more than 20 years but said he had no idea the house across the street was home to more than one couple.
“Still shocked,” he said. “I’ve never seen a bunch of people coming out from that house or anything like that.”
But then there was the raid.
“Taking a few people, give it a break, then a few more,” another neighbor said.
According to the federal complaint, the homeowner, Concepcion Malinek, brought the 19 adults and 14 children into the United States from Guatemala then kept them in her home and took large parts of their wages from factory jobs she helped them secure in Romeoville. She then charged for rides to work and forced them to clean her property until their debt was paid — between $15,000 and $18,000 a person.
One victim told investigators she was “verbally abusive” and would tell them, “Immigration knows how many people live in this house. You guys are poor, and I have all the money.”
“I’m just shocked. To be honest. This was happening in front of my house,” Orozco said.
The 33 people who were living there were brought in by authorities, but it’s still not clear what’s next for them.
Malinek is expected in court this week.