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Scam Victims Were Just Trying to Help

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For $1.00, deaf mute Mexicans were selling cards and keychains
SANFORD — Fourteen adults and three children were forced to peddle trinkets toanyone for cash. Authorities say they were lured by the promise offreedom, but ended up being held captive. So where did they sell theirgoods? At malls, stores and even the streets. Chances are you may havebeen approached.

The Mexicans were paid $5.00, and were apparently promised half of all themoney they could raise. Why would anyone give money to a total stranger?Chances are, if someone was tugging on your heart strings, you might givethem just about anything.

Fred Murchison thought he was helping someone in need when he gave $1.00to a deaf man in a Sanford parking lot. Murchison says he's the kind ofperson who likes to help someone out.

For his donation, he got a printed card and a keychain. Federalimmigration agents say it was just a scam. Agents found 17 Mexicans intwo Sanford homes. Thirteen of them were deaf. INS says they were heldin virtual slavery, forced to sell cards and keychains and getting littleor nothing for their labor.

A similar raid took place in New York City on Monday. Most people aresurprised something similar would happen in Sanford.

Laresia Farrington recalled hearing about the New York story, but neverimagined slave labor could go on in her community.

At least two times in as many months, Mexicans selling the same trinketshave been asked to leave the Crabtree Valley Mall parking lot. Federalagents say the deaf Mexicans applied their trade in other locations likeGreensboro, Burlington, and Fayetteville, reportedly driven there by adeaf couple who lived with them in Sanford.

Wanda Wilkins says she almost ignored a woman who approached her outside alocal grocery store. Wilkins says she wasn't going to give the womananything, but then thought that maybe she really is deaf and is in need.So, Wilkins handed over the money.

When this group is finished, victims of the scam worry they might be ableto hurt others down the road. Murchison says the wrongful doing inSanford may prevent others from giving to legitimate organizations whohelp people who really are in need.

The people taken to Charlotte after Friday's raid won't face immediateexportation. There will be a hearing on their legal residency status. Atleast two of the 17 were trying to become permanent residents of theUnited States.