A young woman smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico said she endured two years of horrific abuse at the hands of a Florida woman who repeatedly tried to artificially inseminate her.
Those are the shocking allegations made in court documents filed against Esthela Clark, 47, of Jacksonville. Clark pleaded guilty Monday to one count of forced labor in connection with the case, the Justice Department announced.
Per the terms of a plea agreement, Clark, escaped more serious charges, including sex trafficking and involuntary servitude.
The Justice Department said that in 2012, Clark recruited a 22-year-old woman from Mexico and convinced her to come to the U.S. for the purpose of serving as her pregnancy surrogate. Clark told the woman, who has not been identified, that she would receive roughly $4,000 in exchange for participation in a “medically supervised” procedure. Clark then paid human smugglers, also known as “coyotes,” roughly $3,000 to smuggle the woman out of Mexico, authorities said.
The trip turned into two years of hell for the young woman.
The woman told investigators her first nine months in the country were spent enduring Clark’s repeated attempts to impregnate her.
“Clark and [her boyfriend] would have sex using a condom,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Huffington Post. “When [Clark’s boyfriend] ejaculated, Clark would transfer the semen from the condom to a plastic syringe and then insert the semen into [the victim’s] vagina.”
The young woman said she was subjected to injections “three to four times a day” when she was ovulating. When those efforts failed, she said Clark forced her “to have sex with two complete strangers.”
Things took a turn for the worse in March 2013.
The woman said Clark began beating her, forcing her to work, and chastised her for being “too fat” to conceive. She said Clark would only allow her to eat beans, which resulted in a 65-pound weight loss.
Allegations set forth in the affidavit include:
- “Clark advised [the victim] that if she tried to escape, [the victim’s] family and child in Mexico would be harmed.”
- “Clark prohibited [the victim] from washing or changing her clothing for days and weeks at a time.”
- “On one occasion ... Clark required [the victim] to sleep on the kitchen floor in a puddle of bleach as punishment.”
- “Clark often would force [the victim] to undress.”
- “Clark physically beat [the victim] at least four or five times.”
Clark also isolated the victim from her family and “attempted to collect from the victim’s family the cost she had paid to the coyotes, with interest,” a statement from federal prosecutors reads.
The abuse continued until January 2015, when a concerned citizen contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Investigators assigned to the case uncovered a mountain of evidence, which corroborated the victim’s story, according to the criminal complaint.
Six months later, a Grand Jury indicted Clark.
In entering into the plea deal, Clark, according to prosecutors, acknowledged she is guilty of the allegations made against her and will make restitution to the victim, in an amount yet to be determined by a judge.
Clark now faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.