Woman charged in human trafficking case

Lake County Sheriff’s Special Investigations Group rescues 4 from Highland Park home

Gladys Ibanez Olea, 34, of Highland Park was charged in a human trafficking case.

HIGHLAND PARK – The Lake County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Group rescued four victims of human trafficking in conjunction with the Highland Park Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.

In late January, the Highland Park Police Department received a tip regarding potential human trafficking occurring at a residence in the 500 block of Onwentsia Avenue, Highland Park, according to a news release from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

Highland Park’s initial investigation determined the tip had merit and referred it to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigation Group.

Members of SIG, Highland Park Police and Homeland Security Investigations conducted further investigations and obtained substantial evidence showing Gladys Ibanez Olea, 34, was engaged in human trafficking.

On Feb. 7, SIG, Highland Park Police and Homeland Security Investigations conducted a search of Olea’s home. Four victims were rescued: a 19-year-old woman and her 2-year-old son and a 22-year-old woman and her 15-year-old brother. All four were relocated to safety and are receiving services.

The investigation revealed Olea arranged for the four to be illegally escorted from Mexico into the U.S. around July 2023, according to the release. Neither of the adult victims knew each other at the time. Olea promised housing, safety and jobs, but after arriving, Olea took possession of their identification, money and other goods, police said.

Police said Olea forced the adult victims and the 15-year-old into jobs to pay off their “debt” for safe entry into the U.S. The victims were forced to give the money they earned to Olea. The “debt” they owed Olea continually grew and it appeared unlikely they would be able to pay off the “debt.”

Police said there were padlocks around the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator in order to control what the victims ate and when they ate. Olea allegedly forced the 15-year-old victim to work rather than attend school, creating a fraudulent identification for him to make it appear he was 19 years old.

According to statements, Olea allegedly would prevent the 2-year-old from falling asleep during the day by giving him cold baths in order to make him sleep longer during nighttime hours.

Additionally, the victims were told their remaining family in Mexico would be killed if they did not continue to comply with Olea, according to the release.

Olea has been charged with eight counts of human trafficking (Class 1 felonies), three counts of involuntary servitude (Class 3 felonies) and four counts of involuntary servitude (Class 4 felonies). Additional charges are possible, according to the release.

Olea was being held in the Lake County jail pending an initial court hearing.

“Human trafficking is a real problem across the U.S. and right here in Lake County,” Sheriff John Idleburg said in the release. “I am thankful these four victims were saved from their abuser and are no longer living in fear. Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of their victims. They exploit their victims for personal gain. Our Special Investigations Group has rescued a number of victims over the last several years and rescuing victims while holding traffickers accountable remains a top priority.”

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

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