FALL RIVER (WBSM) — A New Bedford man was sentenced today to five years and one day in state prison for labor trafficking following a five-day jury trial.

On Monday, December 11, 2023, a Bristol County jury found Fernando Roland, 66, guilty of 11 counts of trafficking of persons for forced services.

Roland will also serve one concurrent year in the Bristol County House of Correction on one count of assault and battery.

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The investigation found that from 2016 to 2018, Roland worked with the Rhode Island-based cleaning company Martins Maintenance.

Evidence showed that Roland forced two women to work for him, cleaning businesses throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. These women did not speak English or have anywhere to live other than the rooms Roland provided for them.

Roland repeatedly threatened the women regarding their immigration status, even confiscating one woman’s passport until her visa expired. Roland also deceived the woman by bringing them to a man that he falsely claimed was an immigration attorney and would cost $5,000 to complete their paperwork.

As a result of the Attorney’s General investigation, the second woman was able to escape following the first woman’s disclosure.

According to the D.A.’s Office, this is the first conviction for labor trafficking since the An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People was enacted in 2012, establishing human trafficking as a criminal act under state law.

“With today’s sentence, we are making it clear that we will prioritize labor trafficking cases and hold accountable those who force someone to work,” Attorney General Andrea Campbell said.

“I, along with the team, am grateful to the victims who took considerable risk in coming forward and sharing their stories, without which my incredible team who worked on this case would not have been successful,” she said.

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