The three men charged here with smuggling deaf and mute Mexicans into the United States and forcing them to hawk trinkets have been operating out of Los Angeles since at least 1995, officials say.
A federal complaint alleges the deaf immigrants were ordered to sell cheap key chains and other wares at Los Angeles International Airport and elsewhere until they could be sent to the main operation in New York City.
The three arrested Wednesday included Lalo Paoletti, a member of the Mexico City-based Paoletti family accused of running a New York operation where more than 50 deaf Mexicans were found July 18 crammed into two apartments in Queens.
They were forced to work up to 11 hours a day selling $1 trinkets and threatened with beatings or being turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, authorities said.
The three suspects in Los Angeles, all deaf and speech impaired, were expected to be extradited to New York.