HONOLULU – Six recruiters were accused Thursday of luring 400 laborers from Thailand to the United States and forcing them to work, according to a federal indictment that the FBI called the largest human trafficking case ever charged in U.S. history.
The indictment alleges that the scheme was orchestrated by four employees of labor recruiting company Global Horizons Manpower Inc. and two Thailand-based recruiters. It said the recruiters lured the workers with false promises of lucrative jobs, then confiscated their passports, failed to honor their employment contracts and threatened to deport them.
Once the Thai laborers arrived in the United States starting in May 2004, they were put to work and have since been sent to sites in states including Hawaii, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, according to attorneys and advocates.
Many laborers were initially taken to farms in Hawaii and Washington, where work conditions were the worst, said Chancee Martorell, executive director for the Los Angeles-based Thai Community Development Center, which represents 263 Thai workers who were brought to the U.S. by Global Horizons.
The defendants include Global Horizons President and CEO Mordechai Orian, 45; Director of International Relations Pranee Tubchumpol, 44; Hawaii regional supervisor Shane Germann, 41; and onsite field supervisor Sam Wongsesanit, 39.
Honolulu immigration attorney Melissa Vincenty said the indictment against Global Horizons is a major blow to labor trafficking nationwide.
“Global was the big fish in all of this,” Vincenty said.