A man has been arrested and jailed under a $1 million secured bond for keeping a 14-year-old girl as a slave in North Carolina.
The girl had been purchased by Pasqual Mendez, 23, in Guatemala seven months ago and brought to the state to cook, clean and perform sexual acts for him.
Police responded to a 9-1-1 call in Morgantown, North Carolina, and found the girl, who lived with Mendez, had been assaulted.
Mendez was arrested by Burke County Sheriff’s Officers and placed in jail in Morganton under a $ million secured bond on charges of felony human trafficking of a child, assault on a female, interfering with emergency communication and statutory rape of a child less than 15 years of age. Additionally, he is under a $5,000 secured bond on charges of transporting a child out of state in violation of a custody order.
The Morganton Department of Public Safety said the girl is a legal resident of the United States who was in Guatemala at the time of the purchase. Mendez paid a family member of the victim both to bring her from Guatemala and to own her, police said. Paying her travel expenses back to North Carolina was part of the deal.
Since the girl does not have family members in the U.S., she is currently in the custody of the Burke County Department of Social Services.
Sgt. Tim Corriveau with MDPS said they have not been able to uncover any proof that Mendez was in the country legally, which could mean he will be sent back to Guatemala.
“If he’s convicted, then it’ll become an immigration issue,” he said.
A neighbor of Mendez was “stunned” at the news.
“It’s disgusting the U.S. would allow that,” she said. “What did he go through to make this happen?”
However some of Mendez’s family was aware of the case. A cousin told a local television station the girl was in the home to work.
“She can clean up and do stuff,” he said through a translator. “And also sweep and mop.”
Corriveau said cases like this are quite common, and the girl is lucky to have escaped.
“Human trafficking happens every day,” he said. “We’re just fortunate that this time we were able to help out this little girl.”
Mendez’s next court date is scheduled for Aug. 31. No one else has been charged in the case. Police said the investigation is ongoing.