‘Modern-day slavemaster' gets life in prison

Boy, are they busted Fred Harran, Bensalem Township's director of public safety, explains Monday how his department seized more than 15 kilograms of heroin and 20 pounds of meth over the weekend. Bensalem police arrested two men from California and seized drugs that they said had an estimated street value of $11.7 million. About 6:45 p.m. Sunday, officers in the area of State Road and American Drive saw a suspicious blue tractor-trailer in the area. Turns out, the cornucopia of narcotics shown in this photo was stashed in the truck. The men were arraigned and sent to Bucks County Prison on $1 million bail each. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Boy, are they busted Fred Harran, Bensalem Township's director of public safety, explains Monday how his department seized more than 15 kilograms of heroin and 20 pounds of meth over the weekend. Bensalem police arrested two men from California and seized drugs that they said had an estimated street value of $11.7 million. About 6:45 p.m. Sunday, officers in the area of State Road and American Drive saw a suspicious blue tractor-trailer in the area. Turns out, the cornucopia of narcotics shown in this photo was stashed in the truck. The men were arraigned and sent to Bucks County Prison on $1 million bail each. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 17, 2012

He and his brothers lured young Ukrainian immigrants into the United States with promises of good-paying jobs, room-and-board and the opportunity to earn up to $500 per month. Instead, authorities said, Omelyan Botsvynyuk and his four brothers held them in indentured servitude from 2000 to 2003, forcing them to work on cleaning crews in big-box retailers and office buildings in the Philadelphia region seven nights a week for no pay.

Several victims, identified only by their initials, testified Monday at Botsvynyuk's sentencing, one saying that she continues to "live in fear" and is "constantly worried." A male victim testified: "I used to go hungry to work and came hungry from work."

Calling Botsvynyuk, 52, a "modern-day slave master," U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond sentenced him to life in federal prison, saying his crimes "hearkened back to the Nuremberg trials" of the Nazis in postwar Germany.

After a monthlong trial, a jury convicted Botsvynyuk, of Ukraine, in October of racketeering, conspiracy and extortion. His brother, Stepan, who was convicted of conspiracy, is to be sentenced Tuesday. Two other brothers charged in the case are in Canada awaiting extradition and a third brother is in Ukraine, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. All lived for a time in Port Richmond, where each housed his own crew of workers, the feds said.

In Omelyan Botsvynyuk's house, seven workers shared a small bedroom; some slept in the hallway, others slept on bare mattresses, two to a mattress, court papers said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Velez said Botsvynyuk raped some female workers and beat others to keep them in line. Velez described how Botsvynyuk savagely beat one female victim, pulling her hair out, throwing her downstairs, tying her hands and sodomizing her.

After the victims ran away one by one, Botsvynyuk contacted the workers' families in Ukraine and threatened them with mutilation, rape and death, court papers said, if the victims did not return to work and repay their debts. The workers had been told that they would have to work for three years before they would be allowed to work elsewhere.

All of the smuggled workers hailed from a poor, underdeveloped mountainous area of Ukraine, and most had never been outside their small villages.

Botsvynyuk was unremorseful and didn't apologize to his victims Monday. "I have not committed these crimes," he said, speaking through an interpreter. He suggested that some victims cooperated with the government "so they could get green cards," adding: "Why do you want to give me a life sentence?" n

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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