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U.S. Trial Opens Of Ukrainian Brothers Accused Of Human Trafficking

The trial has started in the United States of two Ukrainian brothers accused of luring fellow Ukrainians to America, where they were forced to work in slave-like conditions as cleaners.

The trial of Omelyan and Stepan Botsvynyuk began on September 19 in Philadelphia.

U.S. prosecutors say the alleged victims were promised compensation of $500 a month in the U.S. but instead were given little food or money for working 16-hour days cleaning stores and offices in an operation that benefited the Botsvynyuk family.

Authorities say the Botsvynyuk family operated what is described as a criminal racketeering enterprise. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Hsia said at the trial that some recruits to the scheme who tried to flee were beaten, raped, or had threats made against their families in Ukraine.

Defense lawyers have accused Ukrainian witnesses of manipulating evidence against the Botsvynyuks in hopes of receiving a visa that will permit them to settle in the United States.

Three other Botsvynyuk brothers have faced charges in connection with the case but are not in the U.S. for trial.

compiled from agency reports

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