MONROE — A woman held up her hand to show the numbers “911” written on her skin as a neighbor approached her in Monroe. She was sitting on a curb, crying.
The neighbor called police.
An officer who arrived at the scene April 24, did not speak Spanish, the woman’s first language. The cop pulled up a translation app on a phone to talk to the woman. She reported she’d escaped a “very bad man” who had essentially held her hostage, and that her back and heart were hurting.
A second officer who responded spoke Spanish and was able to talk to the woman. At first, she was hesitant to identify the man, because he had threatened to kill her children who lived in Mexico, according to new charges filed in federal court.
She eventually identified the alleged human trafficker as Rangel Ramirez-Manzano, 55, of Monroe.
On Monday, Ramirez-Manzano was indicted in U.S. District Court with transporting aliens for financial gain, harboring aliens for financial gain and bringing aliens to the United States for financial gain. Charges allege the man trafficked the woman across the border, abused her and forced her to work at his landscaping company without pay.
Ramirez-Manzano owns a Monroe landscaping company, R.R. Landscaping. He made the woman work long hours for his business, the charges say, and threatened to harm her family if she left.
That day in April, police noticed the woman had an injured hand. The woman reported a pressure washer had fallen on her and caused injury to her hand and shoulder. The woman went to a local hospital where she was examined for workplace injuries as well as reported repeated sexual assaults by Ramirez-Manzano.
At the hospital, the woman told medical staff that Ramirez-Manzano had told her she owed him $25,000, the charges say. He reportedly showed her photos of real estate paperwork regarding her home in Mexico and told her it meant her property was now in his name.
An FBI agent reviewed police reports and interviewed the woman. She reported she met Ramirez-Manzano when she was a young girl and that he moved to the United States a few years later.
The woman and Ramirez-Manzano reconnected in early 2021, when he got a hold of her phone number through a cousin, the charges say.
Ramirez-Manzano and the woman reportedly began a romantic relationship. Ramirez-Manzano offered to bring the woman to the United States, so they could be together, prosecutors wrote. The woman was going through financial hardship in Mexico and had to close the business she owned. Ramirez-Manzano reportedly told the woman she could make a better life for herself and her children in the United States, that he had a lot of money and that if she ied him, she would “want for nothing.”
“Ramirez-Manzano bragged about his purported wealth,” investigators wrote, “and told (the woman) that he made $1,500 USD per day.”
The woman reportedly told detectives that although she thought it was nice that Ramirez-Manzano was rich, she truly loved him and love was more important than money.
Ramirez-Manzano communicated with the woman’s family, asking for permission to marry her and telling her children to “think of him like a father.”
The woman and Ramirez-Manzano dated long distance for a year. The woman reportedly told detectives that the man would get angry and jealous, call her a “whore” and accuse her of spending time with other men.
She reported Ramirez-Manzano had agreed to pay a “coyote” — a common nickname for a human smuggler — $17,000 to bring her across the border. In Tijuana, coyotes had the woman get into the trunk of an SUV, hidden in the spare tire compartment. Ramirez-Manzano picked up the woman in southern California, the charges say.
“His attitude towards her was colder than she anticipated, which disappointed her,” the FBI agent wrote.
She was taken to Ramirez-Manzano’s home in Monroe, where she would live with him and his children.
The morning after the woman arrived in Washington, Ramirez-Manzano woke the woman up early and told her it was time to get to work. She was surprised by this, the charges say, because she had thought that she would be a homemaker for Ramirez-Manzano.
The woman reportedly worked 10- to 14-hour days without breaks at the landscaping company for no pay, doing physically demanding tasks and suffering injuries.
Ramirez-Manzano’s daughter took note of the woman’s long work hours and lack of time to rest, but Ramirez-Manzano forbade the two from talking, the charges say.
“I am aware from my training and experience,” the FBI agent wrote, “that individuals involved in human trafficking often take actions to isolate their victims from others who might be in a position to help them.”
Ramirez-Manzano reportedly took meal breaks and picked up food for only himself, not the woman, and would eat in front of her.
Investigators contacted witnesses whose descriptions of Ramirez-Manzano’s treatment of the woman matched her story.
The woman was not allowed to have a phone, so she couldn’t call for help, according to the charges.
On the day police found her, the woman reportedly told Ramirez-Manzano she would not go to work that day. He was mad, the charges say, but left her at home, reminding her he’d kill her children if she left. The woman wrote “911” on her hand, grabbed her belongings and fled.
“It’s now or never,” she thought to herself.
The woman saw headlights and realized one of Ramirez-Manzano’s children was out looking for her. She hid between parked cars on the side of the street. Minutes later, the neighbor saw her and called 911.
When officers responded, the charges say, the woman was disoriented due to hunger and having not taken diabetes medication for so long.
On Monday, Ramirez-Manzano remained in custody at the Seattle Federal Detention Center. His next court hearing was set for Thursday.