A 47-year-old Jacksonville woman pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of forced labor after she held a Mexican woman prisoner for years and had her repeatedly sexually assaulted in a one-bedroom apartment off Arlington Expressway, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the plea agreement, Esthela Clark paid so-called “coyotes” about $3,000 to smuggle the woman from Guadalajara to the United States in December 2012 so she could serve as as a pregnancy surrogate.
Clark’s son picked her up in Jacksonville, then took her to the apartment in the 7200 block of Arlington Expressway. There, Clark assured the woman that the surrogacy would be medically supervised but instead forced her into domestic labor as she was physically and psychologically abused, prosecutors said.
Clark also tried to impregnate the victim for nine months using her own boyfriend’s sperm drained from used condoms. No doctors or medical supervision was used in the attempts, prosecutors said.
When that didn’t work, the victim was forced to have sex with two other men as the abuse got worse, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Clark isolated the victim from her family from December 2012 to January 2015, limiting her to a diet of beans, which resulted in a 65-pound weight loss, prosecutors said. The Mexican woman was forced to sleep on the dining room floor.
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Clark even tried to get the victim’s family to pay back money she paid to get her smuggled into the country from Mexico.
She was arrested in mid-2015 after a neighbor saw the Mexican woman washing cars and exhibiting physical signs of abuse. The neighbor took the woman into her home and alerted authorities.
A federal judge sent Clark to the Federal Medical Center in Texas five months after her arrest to determine whether she was competent to stand trial. Clark now faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a sentencing date not set yet, prosecutors said.
Dan Scanlan:(904) 359-4549