A Millcreek couple, Luis Fernando Mendez-Portillo and Lesbia Lisseth Figueroa Gallardo, have been arrested on charges of human trafficking and fraud, according to the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The couple is accused of trafficking two women from Guatemala and forcing them to work without pay.
The victims, who are Guatemalan citizens, had connections to Mendez-Portillo. They allegedly paid him thousands of dollars to help them cross the border into the United States. After illegally crossing the border in November 2022, the victims began living with Mendez-Portillo and Gallardo at their residence in Millcreek.
Mendez-Portillo reportedly told the victims that they owed him money for the border crossing. As a result, the victims were forced to work at Taco Bell and KFC, where Gallardo and Mendez-Portillo’s son held managerial positions. The victims claimed to have worked long hours, with their wages being controlled by Mendez-Portillo.
The victims also stated that they were not allowed to have phones and could only contact their families in Guatemala under the couple’s supervision. Mendez-Portillo allegedly threatened the victims, stating that something would happen to their families if they did not pay him back.
Both victims reported that Mendez-Portillo sexually assaulted them during their time living with the couple. The victims eventually fled from Mendez-Portillo and sought assistance from the authorities.
Further investigation revealed that the victims’ earnings were reported under fraudulent social security numbers. Additionally, Gallardo had substantial earnings under a social security number that did not belong to her.
A search warrant executed at Mendez-Portillo and Gallardo’s residence uncovered the victims’ Guatemalan passports, ID cards, pay cards, U.S. Permanent Resident Cards, and Social Security cards. It was determined that the permanent resident cards and social security cards were fraudulent.
Mendez-Portillo admitted to sending money to Guatemala to facilitate the victims’ border crossing and claimed that the victims owed him money. He also stated that the victims lived at their residence and worked at Taco Bell until they left abruptly, leaving behind their documents.
Both Mendez-Portillo and Gallardo are currently in custody at the Salt Lake County Jail.