A 59-year-old Mankato woman has pleaded guilty to one count of forced-labor trafficking in federal court in St. Paul for luring a woman from Vietnam under false promises, and compelling her to work long hours without pay in a Mankato restaurant.

According to a Justice Department news release, Tieu Tran recruited the woman from Vietnam to travel to the United States, falsely promising her legal immigration status and a high-paying job.

“In reality,” the department said, “Tran smuggled the victim and two other Vietnamese nationals across the southern U.S.-Mexico border, imposed a significant debt upon the victim and forced the victim to pay down the smuggling debt at Tran’s son’s Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Saigon, in Mankato.”

The Justice Department said that during plea proceedings, Tran admitted to compelling the victim to work long hours without paying her as promised.

The department said that “this included manipulation of debts, isolation and verbal intimidation to hold the victim in fear, knowing that the victim was without legal status and money, did not have the ability to speak English, feared losing her family home in Vietnam to creditors and had nowhere else to turn for subsistence.”

Tran faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,00 fine. She agreed to nullify all debts imposed on the victim as well as similar debts imposed on seven others believed to be under similar circumstances, the Justice Department said.

Randy Furst