A Florida woman has pleaded guilty to forced labor after admitting that she smuggled a woman into the U.S. from Mexico for the purposes of a surrogate pregnancy. She is accused of holding her captive as a forced laborer, starving her, and abusing her.
According to the New York Post, Esthela Clark, 47, of Jacksonville, admitted in her plea agreement that she paid smugglers $3,000 to bring to woman to the U.S. to bear her child, promising her a medically supervised pregnancy.
That pregnancy never happened. According to the New York Post, Clark tried to impregnate the victim with semen from her boyfriend’s used condoms, which was not successful. The suspect then reportedly forced the woman to have sex with other men, while subjecting the victim to escalating physical and psychological abuse, according to The Florida Times-Union.
Prosecutors also accused Clark of starving the victim to the point where she lost 65 pounds, and forcing her to sleep on the dining room floor. The victim was reportedly forbidden from contacting her own family from December 2012 to January 2015.
An investigation began after a neighbor saw signs of abuse on the victim and alerted authorities.
Clark reportedly faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.