Six charged in Hawaii for Thai forced labour scheme
The US Justice Department on Thursday announced indictments against six people for luring 400 Thais to the United States and forcing them to work as farm labourers.
The men are accused of enticing the Thais to the US with promises of lucrative jobs.
But when they were arrived their passports were taken away and they were forced to pay thousands of dollars in recruitment fees and set to work on farms.
The fees were financed by debts secured with the workers' family and property.
A jury in Hawaii indicted the six for their alleged scheme “to coerce the labor and services of about 400 Thai nationals" from May 2004 to September 2005 "to work on farms across the country under the US federal agricultural guest worker programme".
The defendants kept them working in Hawaii and the western US state of Washington "by threatening to send them back to Thailand, knowing they would face serious economic harms created by the debts," said the Justice Department.
The defendants, Israeli Mordechai Orian, along with Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann and Sam Wongsesanit of the Los Angeles-based company Global Horizons Manpower are accusd of conspiring with Thai labor recruiters Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai to carry out the crimes.
If convicted, Orian and Tubchumpol face up to 70 years in prison and Chunharutai faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison, officials said.
The others face maximum sentences of five to 10 years in prison.