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L.A. firm at center of huge human-smuggling case

September 3, 2010 | 10:18 am

A Westwood company is at the center of a federal indictment alleging a massive human-smuggling ring involving Thai workers.

The indictment alleges that the defendants enticed the Thai immigrants to come to the United States with false promises of lucrative jobs. The workers had their passports confiscated and were not paid the wages outlined in their contracts, the FBI said.

The indictment alleges that Global Horizons Manpower Inc. was involved in a scheme to coerce the labor and services of about 400 Thai nationals brought to the United States from May 2004 through September 2005 to work on farms across the country under a federal agricultural guest-worker program, the FBI said in a news release.

Named in the indictment are Mordechai Orian, Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann and Sam Wongsesanit, all of Global Horizons Manpower.

Thai labor recruiters Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai were also charged with engaging in the conspiracy to commit forced labor, the FBI said.

Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment.

According to a statement from the FBI: "The defendants arranged for the Thai workers to pay high recruitment fees, which were financed by debts secured with the workers' family property and homes. Significant portions of these fees went to the defendants themselves. After arrival in the United States, the defendants confiscated the Thai nationals' passports and failed to honor the employment contracts.

"The defendants maintained the Thai nationals' labor by threatening to send them back to Thailand, knowing they would face serious economic harms created by the debts. The indictment also alleges that the defendants confined a group of Thai guest workers at Maui Pineapple Farm and demanded an additional fee of $3,750 to keep their jobs with Global Horizons. Those workers who refused to pay the additional fee were sent back home to Thailand with unpaid debts, subjecting them to the high risk of losing their family homes and land."

-- Robert J. Lopez