OGDEN, Utah — The Utah Attorney General's Office announced Friday that it has charged the owner of an amusement company with human trafficking-related crimes. The investigation and arrest came while the company was operating a carnival at the Newgate Mall in Ogden.
Jordan Nathaniel Jensen, 31, was charged with three counts of human trafficking for labor exploitation and nine counts of unlawful possession of another's identification documents.
The charges stem from Jensen allegedly "illegally inducing more than 20 Mexican Nationals to work" for his company's traveling carnival, according to a statement from the Attorney General's office.
Jensen is accused of taking the passports of the workers, who were all in the U.S. legally, and keeping them so they would not leave his company, Midway West Amusements, Inc.
The probable cause statement says the Mexican Consulate notified the Utah Attorney General's Office on June 29 about a possible labor trafficking case in Ogden. Two victims told agents of the SECURE Task Force that they were hired by Midway while still in Mexico.
The victims said Midway arranged their work visas for them to come to the U.S. and were hired for $400 per week. The men said Jensen confiscated their passports upon their arrival to the country, but they believed it was a common practice, according to their interview with agents.
Jensen told the men he kept all passports and visas for the foreign workers because "he did not want anyone to escape" and that it was right "according to a contract his company had with the U.S. government."
Subjected to long hours of approximately 70 hours per week, the men told agents they also lived in a mobile trailer without running water, electricity or air conditioning. They added that Midway owners would not give them water or allow them to take breaks during their entire shift.
When the men told Jensen they wanted to leave, Jensen reportedly "ridiculed" them and said he would not pay them or return their passports until they were back in Mexico. The men left the carnival without their passports and contacted the Mexican Consulate, who contacted the attorney general's office.
On June 30, one of the victims, wired with audio equipment, returned to the carnival at Newgate Mall and spoke with Jensen with the assistance of a translator. While being recorded, Jensen once again said he would not return the passports or pay the men for hours worked. The translator also told agents that his passport was being kept by Jensen.
A day later, agents executed a search warrant on the office trailer of Midway West Amusements and found nine visas and passports.
Officials asked for a no-bail warrant for Jensen as he "lives a transient existence" with the amusement company.