She wanted a baby. Now, she might be deported after doing prison time for slavery

A detailed report from the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index estimated as many as 400,000 people are living in conditions of modern slavery in the U.S. Some have criticized the report’s methodology in the past.
A detailed report from the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index estimated as many as 400,000 people are living in conditions of modern slavery in the U.S. Some have criticized the report’s methodology in the past. File

A Mexican woman living in Florida had a countrywoman smuggled into the United States allegedly for use as a surrogate. Over the next two years, she pimped the supposed surrogate in a trailer park and used her as a household slave, forcing her to sleep in a puddle of bleach at one point.

Among these many crimes, 49-year-old Jacksonville resident Esthela Clark pleaded guilty to forced labor. The Justice Department says she might be deported after serving the seven-year sentence handed down last week in federal court in Jacksonville.

Court documents say the victim of Clark's callous desires, a 24-year-old woman identified only as "Y.L.," came from the Guadalajara, Jalisco area, just as Clark did. They met in Mexico through a mutual friend.

Clark's signed court admission says she told Y.L. in 2012 that she and her boyfriend, Ronald Castellanos, were looking for a surrogate mother. Everything would be conducted under proper medical supervision with legal adoption papers. Upon successful reproduction, Y.L. would be sent back to Mexico with a $3,000 to $4,000 payment.

Y.L. agreed. By bus and professional smuggling "coyotes," Y.L. traveled from Guadalajara to Jacksonville from Nov. 27 through Dec. 2, 2012.

The criminal complaint says around November 2014, a member of Celebration Church named Iomara Miranda noticed Y.L. "washing cars in very cold weather with insufficient clothing and ... observed physical signs of abuse on Y.L."

Miranda not only helped Y.L. escape the situation, but called Homeland Security. That's when Y.L. told investigators the story of her life with Clark over the previous two years.

Clark set up Y.L. in a one-bedroom apartment at the Les Chateau Condominiums. Then, she set about psychologically shackling the younger woman.

"Clark told Y.L. that she was not allowed to leave because Y.L. spoke no English, the area was dangerous, and Y.L. would most likely be killed," Clark's admission of facts says. "Clark also advised Y.L. that Clark read Tarot cards and if Y.L. ever tried to hide anything from Clark, Clark would find out."

Y.L. slept on a mattress on the dining room floor. That's where Clark would attempt to inseminate Y.L. with Castellanos' semen three to four times a day during Y.L.'s ovulation periods over the next nine months.

This took place sans the proper medical supervision Clark promised in Mexico. In fact, Y.L. never saw a doctor, but did go to the All Women's Health Center in February and March 2013.

As Clark's version of artificial insemination continued to prove fruitless in March 2013, she decided to use Y.L. for slave duty. Any escape attempt, Clark told Y.L., would result in violence being visited upon Y.L.'s family and child. Clark began beating Y.L.

"Y.L. was responsible for caring for Clark's dog, doing household chores, cleaning and doing Clark's shopping, all without pay," Clark's admission says. Also, "Clark advised Y.L. that she was not conceiving because she was too fat. Clark would not permit Y.L. to eat anything other than beans and Y.L. lost 65 pounds."

Y.L. bleached Clark's apartment because Clark's dog had fleas, the criminal complaint says, but when Clark felt Y.L. used too much bleach, she made Y.L. sleep on the kitchen floor in a puddle of bleach. When Clark let Y.L. wear clothes, she wouldn't let Y.L. wash or change her clothes for weeks at a time.

In June 2013, Castellanos got a construction job in Missouri, so Clark and Castellanos took Y.L. with them. Clark continued to try inseminating Y.L. with Castellanos' semen, but also demanded Y.L. have sex with two men Y.L. described as "Americans" at the trailer park where they were staying.

While they were there, a man named Juan Pablo tried to help Y.L. by giving her money and a phone to call her family. Clark took both and beat Y.L.

Juan Pablo contacted Y.L.'s mother himself in July 2013. Y.L.'s brother called Clark.

"Clark advised Y.L.'s brother that Y.L. owed her $3,000, the cost of bringing Y.L. to America, but that the debt was now thousands of dollars more," Clark's admission states.

Clark also later told Y.L.'s family that they couldn't talk with her as it upset Y.L. and made insemination harder. Then, she told them Y.L. had a new boyfriend, had moved out and wanted nothing to do with her family in Mexico anymore.

When Clark and her boyfriend brought Y.L. back to Jacksonville, Clark began taking her to 57 Heaven night club, the criminal complaint says.

"Clark met an American bartender there named Jason, and Clark stated that she still wanted a baby," the complaint says. "Clark told Y.L. that 'a gringo baby would be worth more.' Clark demanded that Y.L. live up to their surrogate mother agreement and advised Y.L. that Clark would have sex with Jason at the night club and would then try to inseminate Y.L. with Jason's semen."

This happened three times, each time in Clark's SUV.