The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged an Upper Marlboro couple with forced labor in the case of an illegal Filipino woman, who was allegedly lured to America and coerced into working for them without pay.

“Human trafficking robs victims of their freedom and dignity and it will not be tolerated in our nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement. “We will prosecute all cases of human trafficking to the fullest extent of the law.”

Alfred Edwards, 73, and his wife Gloria Edwards, 60, concocted a scheme that lasted just over a decade, according to the indictment. The couple made the woman, known in the court documents as T.E., work 13 or more hours per day, seven days a week for them, neighbors, friends and relatives.

According to the indictment, Gloria Edwards, working with an unnamed co-conspirator, obtained a fake visa to bring T.E. to the United States. Once T.E. arrived, the couple allegedly took her passport and refused the woman’s repeated requests for its return.
The couple also forced T.E. to marry Alfred Edwards’ brother in order to obtain a fraudulent green card. After T.E. received the card, the couple took that as well and threatened that if she ran away she’d be arrested for abandonment.

Additionally, over a four-year period, the indictment states, Alfred Edwards often hit his brother, who was stricken with diabetes and dementia, whenever he soiled himself or talked back as an act of intimidation towards T.E.

Upon the brother’s death, the indictment states, Alfred Edwards began fondling T.E. and became angry with her when she asked him to stop.

In November 2002, T.E. had garnered enough courage to run. But, the indictment states, she was ultimately found by Alfred Edwards who told her that if she tried to run away again he would shoot her. In the fall of 2009, T.E. finally left the Edwards’ residence for good, an act that riled the couple up, the charging document states.

“On or about December 22, 2009, approximately three months after T.E. left the defendants’ residence, defendant Gloria Edwards spoke to T.E. by telephone and told T.E. multiple times that she was a snake, a cobra, a beast, an idiot, a liar, shameless and a son of an expletive; accused her of stealing Alfred Edwards’ clothes when she left; demanded that T.E. pay her $20,000 for a replacement or she would be in trouble; and stated that if T.E. did not pay, T.E. was ‘done’,” the indictment states.

The couple has been charged with forced labor, attempted forced labor, document servitude, conspiracy to harbor for financial gain and harboring domestic worker for financial gain. If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of up to 50 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO