Woman paid to smuggle Mexican as pregnancy surrogate, laborer

Jacksonville woman pleads guilty to federal charge, faces up to 20 years

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter
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The U.S. Attorney does not release booking photos. The photo of Esthela Clark is from her Facebook profile.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 47-year-old Jacksonville woman pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges of forced labor. She admitted to paying about $3,000 to have a Mexican woman smuggled across the border to be a pregnancy surrogate, according to acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow.

Esthela Clark faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Clark was indicted in 2015 on charges of bringing in and harboring aliens, sex trafficking of children, forced labor and furthering slave traffic. Her lawyer requested a competency hearing and she was ruled competent for prosecution. 

According to the plea agreement, Clark paid so-called coyotes to smuggle a woman into the United States. Prosecutors said Clark assured her victim that the surrogacy would be medically supervised, but instead forced the woman to engage in domestic labor through physical and psychological abuse.

Court documents show Clark attempted to impregnate the victim using syringes containing Clark’s boyfriend’s sperm that she had retrieved from used condoms.

"Once those efforts did not work, Clark forced Y.L. to have sex with two complete strangers through threats of force and coercion," according to court documents.

Prosecutors said Clark isolated the victim from her family and limited her to a diet consisting exclusively of beans, resulting in a 65-pound weight loss. She also attempted to collect from the victim’s family the cost she had paid to the smuggler, plus interest.

Prosecutors said the abuse lasted two years until someone the victim knew through Celebration Church saw her "washing cars in very cold weather with insufficient clothing and found (that) behavior to be strange." That person also saw signs of physical abuse and called law enforcement.

Clark was indicted in 2015 on charges of bringing in and harboring aliens, sex trafficking of children, forced labor and furthering slave traffic. Her lawyer requested a competency hearing and she was ruled competent for prosecution. 

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. 

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