A Paso Robles couple pleaded guilty late this afternoon to a federal charge relating to harboring illegal immigrants who were smuggled into the United States and who worked in substandard conditions at their elder-care facilities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Maximino Morales, 45, and Melinda Morales, 48, each pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Maximino and Melinda Morales, both natives of the Philippines, operated four elder-care facilities in Paso Robles under the umbrella of Four M’s Inc.
They recruited Filipino nationals to come to the U.S. with promises of work as live-in caregivers.
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According to their plea agreements, an associate in the Philippines helped the immigrants obtain fraudulent visas that enabled them to travel here.
After they arrived, some of the immigrants worked alone in 24-hour shifts as caregivers for less than minimum wage, both defendants admitted in their plea agreements.
As part of their plea agreements, Maximino and Melinda Morales have agreed to pay restitution of at least $500,000 to about 10 Filipino workers who were not properly paid for the duties they performed.
Maximino and Melinda Morales are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank on Sept. 19.