Acrobats Accused Of Slavery

Federal prosecutors accused the leaders of China Star Acrobats of "involuntary servitude" against its performers following a tip from an interpreter for the group.

However, others involved with the troupe claim the accusations are a ploy to gain U.S. residency.

The leaders of the acrobatic team, which for the last several years has toured hundreds of schools in the U.S. and Canada, were taken into custody in late June, according to the New York Times.

One individual identified as the boss and two others known to some of the group members as "enforcers" are accused of depriving the acrobats of adequate food and payment, keeping them in crowded bedrooms and refusing to let them leave the boss’ house in their U.S. base in Las Vegas, the Times said. Most members in the group are in their late teens to late 20s.

Representatives and other group members not involved in the case said that with visas expiring soon, the accusers were looking for a way to stay in the U.S. and were promised legal status if they cooperated in the federal case, a group member and interpreter said.

"We are not being mistreated, and my boss is not a human trafficker," group member and interpreter Vivian Lu said. "This is all about finding a way to get green cards."

Assistant U.S. attorney Robert Bork said, "This company has been using these children and young adults for its own benefit," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.