WASHINGTON—Two Los Angeles men were charged Friday with conspiring to force 400 Thais to work for little or no pay on farms in Hawaii and elsewhere in the United States.
A federal grand jury in Honolulu indicted Joseph Knoller and Bruce Schwartz, along with six other co-defendants originally charged in September, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
Prosecutors alleged that approximately 400 Thai nationals were lured by the defendants to the United States from Thailand from 2001 through 2007 to work as laborers.
Also charged were Israeli national Mordechai Orian, Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann and Sam Wongsesanit of the Los Angeles-based company Global Horizons Manpower.
They allegedly conspired with Thai labor recruiters Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai to carry out the crimes that began with false promises of lucrative jobs.
Upon arrival in the United States, the Thais had their passports taken away and forced to pay thousands of dollars in recruitment fees, which were “financed by debts secured with the workers’ family property and homes,” the department said in its statement.
The defendants allegedly “paid the workers low wages and required them to remain under the defendants’ control, without pay, in overcrowded, substandard conditions, to serve as a cheap, compliant, and readily available labor pool when there was insufficient work,” the department said.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of an aircraft that Orian and his co-conspirators used to transport workers among Hawaiian islands. –Agence France-Presse
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