fb-pixel Skip to main content

Father and son in Woburn arrested on federal charges in alleged human trafficking scheme

Federal agents collected evidence from The Dog House Bar & Grill in Woburn Tuesday morning.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

A father, his son, and another man were arrested Tuesday on federal charges alleging they were involved in a human trafficking scheme in which Brazilian nationals were smuggled into the United States and worked at Woburn restaurants, where their wages were garnished to pay the smuggling debts, officials said.

In a statement, US Attorney Rachael S. Rollins’s office identified the men as Jesse James Moraes, 64; his son, Hugo Giovanni Moraes, 42; and Marcos Chacon, 29, all of Woburn. Lawyers for the Moraes defendants declined to comment, and an attorney for Chacon couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

All three men were ordered held Tuesday during their initial court appearances, pending a detention hearing at a later date, authorities said.

Advertisement



Jesse Moraes’s brother, Chelbe Moraes, and coconspirators allegedly smuggled Brazilian nationals into the United States for fees ranging from $18,000 to $22,000, Rollins’s office said.

Once the migrants arrived in the United States, Jesse and Hugo Moraes allegedly employed them at their Woburn restaurants, Taste of Brazil — Tudo Na Brasa, and The Dog House, both located on Main Street. The migrants’ wages were allegedly withheld “in order to pay off their smuggling debts,” the statement said.

Chacon allegedly sold the migrants fake identifications, at the request of the Moraes defendants, all of whom allegedly gave or offered to provide phony documentation to the victims to support their asylum claims or to help them obtain work authorization, prosecutors said.

Chelbe Moraes, an affidavit alleged, also at times coached migrants on what to tell US authorities once they entered the country.

“CHELBE sometimes encourages the migrants to make false claims that unrelated migrants are part of the same family unit and to make false applications for asylum,” the filing said.

Chelbe Moraes was charged in a four-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in connection with the case, Rollins’s office said. The affidavit said Chelbe Moraes, a Brazilian citizen, is currently living in that country, and authorities there have informed federal officials that ”Brazil will not extradite a Brazilian citizen to face these charges.”

Advertisement



Rollins’s office said Jesse Moraes and Hugo Moraes are both charged with conspiring to encourage and induce an alien to come to, enter, and reside in the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.

Chacon, Rollins’s office said, is charged with transfer of a false identification document knowing that such document was produced without lawful authority, and with illegal reentry by a deported alien.

“The word ‘alien’ is used in this release because it is the language utilized in the statute(s) these individuals are alleged to have violated,” Rollins’s office said.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.