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Cornelius News

Davidson nail salon owner convicted of forced labor

Jan. 11. A federal jury in Charlotte found Thuy Tien Luong, 37, guilty of forced labor after finding that Luong “compelled the labor of one of her nail technicians” at a salon she owned and operated in Davidson.

Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said human trafficking was involved, as well as mental and physical abuse.

Preying on people

Luong preyed on the victim’s vulnerabilities for her own financial gains, according to US Attorney Andrew Murray. She physically assaulted the victim on several occasions, including pulling her hair out, stabbing her with nail salon tools, and pouring acetone on her head. Luong also threatened to ruin the victim’s reputation with her family by threatening to tell them information about the victim which would negatively impact the victim’s relationship with her family.

Luong falsely claimed that the victim owed her $180,000, and falsely alleged that the victim’s poor work performance caused Luong to lose this amount of money. Luong even executed a debt contract with the victim in the amount of $180,000, and threatened to send the victim to jail if she did not repay all of it.

In reality, the victim was a good employee.

Violent assault

Luong often treated the victim in a humiliating fashion, all while having her work 10 hours a day for six or seven days a week.

The scheme caused the victim to fear Luong and forced her to continue working for Luong until an unusually violent assault led to the victim reporting Luong to the Davidson Police Department—and to Luong’s subsequent arrest in June 2018.

A sentencing date has not been scheduled at this time. The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and must pay mandatory restitution to the victim.

The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.

Happening locally

“The case is an example of how domestic trafficking can and does happen anywhere in our nation,” said Davidson Police Chief Penny L. Dunn.

In addition to Luong’s conviction of forced labor charges, in 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s anti-trafficking efforts resulted in significant prosecutions.

—In October, a federal grand jury indicted Dajuan Akeem Blair, 25, of Cornelius, on two counts of sex trafficking of two minors and child pornography charges. Mecklenburg County arrest records show he has been arrested eight times since 2019, as recently as August of 2020.

—Simone Cherelle McIllwain, 29, of Matthews, N.C. was also indicted in October with sex trafficking of on a minor. McIllwain allegedly trafficked the minor while on federal supervised release for another federal sex trafficking conviction in Florida.

—On October 22, 2020, Xavier Boston, 31, of Charlotte, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison. Boston was convicted by a jury of six counts of sex trafficking and one count of using an interstate facility to promote a prostitution enterprise.

—In August 2020, Timothy Johnson, 25, of Charlotte, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit human trafficking.

The charges against McIllwain and Blair are pending. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. A sentencing date for Johnson has not been set yet.

Special recognition this month

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking is one of the most abhorrent crimes that can be inflicted upon another human being. Whether forced into unpaid labor or coerced into commercial sex acts, trafficking victims are reduced to commodities, their worth determined by how much a trafficker profits from them. In most cases, victims also endure great physical violence and mental abuse in the hands of the perpetrators,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.

If you have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888. NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, related to potential trafficking victims, suspicious behaviors, and/or locations where trafficking is suspected to occur. You can also contact ICE-Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1- 866-347-2423) or the Charlotte Office of the FBI at 704-672-6100.