Global Horizons, the Beverly Hills staffing firm accused of participating in one of the largest human trafficking cases in history, is back in the news.
Here’s what happened most recently:
The U.S. Department of Justice dismissed human trafficking charges on Aug. 4 against Hawaii’s Aloun Farms owners Mike and Alec Sou. The Sou brothers had contracted with Global Horizons to bring in Thai workers, and both companies were under suspicion of mistreating the workers while bringing them to America under false pretenses. Further litigation in the case is now supposedly “in jeopardy” because of this ruling.
Global Horizons owner Mordechai Orian, who is scheduled for a trial in February 2012, has maintained his innocence throughout the mess, which began in 2003.
Not able to wait for his February 2012 hearing, Orian voiced his opinion of the matter in the Hawaii Reporter on Aug. 4, where he said the federal government has been “overzealous,” and offered up a story that aligned the government in conspiracy with the Thai workers.
One thing brought up in the trial was that laws preventing H-2A workers from having to pay recruitment fees were not yet introduced at the time the workers were brought in. Global Horizons was accused of forcing the Thai workers to pay a $25,000 fee when they were hired between 2003-07; the law was passed in 2008.
Orian said this is one thing he cannot be found guilty of.
“It was not (and still is not) illegal in Thailand to pay and collect recruiting fees,” he said in his editorial. “Labor law in Thailand specifically says that if a worker fails to complete their contract and returns home to Thailand, they must be able to recoup a proportional amount of the fees actually paid. The workers would have been out exactly nothing.”
Orian alleges the workers testified against him in exchange for “victim of trafficking” visas, so their families could come into the U.S. and remain there legally.
Interesting turn. This issue never appeared to have come up in past news reports of the investigation.
Yes, says Orian, “’problems with our workers, and the indictments, curiously arose at the exact time the government offered ‘T’ visas in exchange for testimony, not in 2003-04, when the illegal actions I am alleged to have engaged in took place according to the indictment.”
If that’s true, it sheds a whole new light on the whole immigration debate in the U.S. He’s saying the same government that’s supposedly trying to regulate federal immigration law is shooting itself in the foot, offering visas in exchange for betrayal.
Orian comments on the fact that the lead prosecutor in the Sou trial, Susan French, left the trial due to illness after admitting she misstated the law about the legality of the recruiting fees. This ultimately may have been what liberated the Sous.
Orian said, “This case has been nothing short of a personal vendetta by [Susan French] against me and my employees, and now that vendetta appears to be coming to a deservedly ignominious end.”
Orian, though, feels that the government has vindicated him by dropping the charges against Aloun Farms.
“I look forward to my trial,” he concluded.
In related news, Latino workers in Yakima Valley (WA) were awarded $2 million for back wages after they were “illegally and intentionally” replaced with Thai guest workers in 2004. They worked for Valley Fruit Orchards and Green Acre Farms, which contracted through Global Horizons.
Both farms and Global Horizons are jointly responsible for paying the damages.