Newark hair-braiding salon owner pleads guilty to human trafficking, forced labor

Joe Ryan – The Star-Ledger (US – New Jersey) – Thurs 19 March, 2009

Immigrants smuggled from West Africa lived in a two-family house in East Orange and were forced to work without pay at hair-braiding salons, authorities said. Image: William Perlman / The Star-Ledger

Immigrants smuggled from West Africa lived in a two-family house in East Orange and were forced to work without pay at hair-braiding salons, authorities said. Image: William Perlman / The Star-Ledger

An immigrant from the West African nation of Togo pleaded guilty Wednesday to working with his mother to smuggle women from their homeland to work without pay at hair-braiding salons they owned in Newark and East Orange.

Dereck Hounakey, 32, spoke softly as he acknowledged to U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares that he helped run a human trafficking ring that investigators equated to modern-day slavery. Hounakey said the girls were forbidden to have boyfriends and worked up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Did you pay the girls?” asked assistant U.S. Attorney Shana Chen. . .

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