We’ve written a lot about the biggest human trafficking bust in U.S. history, involving the enslavement of at last 400 Thai laborers on American farms. Global Horizons Manpower Inc., the recruitment agency responsible for luring the workers into slavery has its headquarters in Beverly Hills. But that’s not where the Los Angeles connection ends.
Six people were indicted in this bust: Mordechai Orian—the CEO of Global Horizons—his three U.S.-based employees, and two colleagues who worked out of Thailand. All have been taken into custody, except the two based in Thailand. So far, they have alluded capture, and remain at large.
One of the U.S. employees was Pranee Tubchumpol. She was arrested in her home in Gardena, California, just a few miles from the west coast headquarters of Free the Slaves. Tubchumpol was reportedly the head of Global Horizon’s international relations, acting “as a liaison between workers, the Department of Labor’s H2A guest worker program and Thai authorities.”
She also operates a massage parlor in Culver City—also just a few miles away from FTS headquarters. Five Senses Spa Thai Massage, located at 4349 1/2 Sepulveda Blvd. was briefly closed, following Tubchumpol’s arrest. But, according to Culver City News, has since re-opened.
Another clear reminder that modern day slavery can happen right in our own communities.
There was a great piece in the New York Times Op Ed section yesterday that illustrates how modern day slavery can become an entrenched part of a community.
The piece decries the apathy of the Hawaiian public, over a recent, massive, human trafficking bust that enslaved 400 Thai nationals on farms in the state of Hawaii, and on the mainland. It is the biggest human trafficking case in U.S. history. The workers were trafficked through a Beverly Hills recruitment agency, Global Horizons Manpower. The agency’s CEO, Mordechai Orian is currently in custody, along with five of his colleagues.
It turns out that slavery on Hawaii farms is nothing new. Just last August, two Laotian immigrant brothers were charged with enslaving 44 Thai laborers on their Oahu farm. Michael and Alec Sou’s slavery scheme is a familiar one: Recruitment agencies—just like Global Horizons—charged up to $20,000 to place Thai laborers into jobs in the U.S. Many laborers mortgaged ancestral homes and borrowed heavily to pay the fees. Once they arrived on the farm, their passports were taken away, they were saddled with even more debt and forced to work under threat of deportation.
You would think that the community would be outraged by the abuse and corruption demonstration by the Sou brothers. But the exact opposite happened. The brothers were so beloved by the community, this NYT article says, that local “business leaders, community activists, politicians—even two former governors… and two top executives at First Hawaiian Bank [wrote an] outpouring of letters begging the judge for leniency at sentencing.”
The Sou brothers had become an important part of the social and economic fabric of the community. Aloun Farms’ pumpkin patch was a popular tourist spot around Halloween. The brothers were deeply involved in local fundraising and charities. People loved their organic, sustainable produce. The article continues:
The men were paragons of diversified agriculture and wise land use, the letter writers said. They had special vegetable knowledge that nobody else had, and were holding the line against genetically modified crops. If they went to prison, evil developers would pave their farmland. Think of the “trickle down impact,” one woman implored the judge. Besides, their produce was delicious.
The friends pleaded for probation, fines, anything but prison. The workers, now scattered to uncertain fates and still in debt, have seen no such empathy.
All too often, slaves are seen as disposable people. And, as in this instance, slave masters—by ingratiating themselves to the community—can seem to be important, indispensable members of society. No amount of capital that Aloun Farms injects into the local economy can wash away the human rights abuses that have allegedly occurred. Help eradicate modern day slavery. Donate to Free the Slaves today!
Four of the six people indicted in what is being called the biggest human trafficking case in US history have turned themselves in, or are scheduled to surrender by early this week.
Israeli national Mordechai Orian, 45, surrendered to authorities in Honolulu on Friday. Orian is the CEO and president of LA-based labor recruiting agency, Global Horizons Manpower. The agency is accused of trafficking 400 Thai nationals into US farms where they were saddled with enormous recruitment fees (as high as $17,000) and laboring in conditions of slavery—unable to escape, and forced to work under threats. Mordechai entered a plea of “not guilty” in federal court.
On Thursday, Orian’s public relations adviser, Kara Lujan, was asked by her client to conduct negotiations with the FBI for his surrender. She said Federal agents agreed to a surrender in Hawaii on the condition that they would be shown an airplane ticket to the state. She said he landed in Honolulu and took a taxi to his lawyer’s office, where FBI representatives were waiting, as agreed.
…Three of his employees and two Thailand-based recruiters also were charged in an indictment announced Thursday. Orian appeared in Honolulu federal court with his ankles chained. He was represented by a court-appointed attorney based on his contention that he couldn’t afford one himself. He faces a maximum sentence of 70 years imprisonment. He was ordered deported from the United States last year, but has remained in the country during his appeal.
U.S. Attorney Susan French called Orian’s arrest a major saga because his public relations agency had told authorities varying stories that he was in Los Angeles, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Contrary to Lujan’s statement, she said they didn’t know his whereabouts until he had already caught a taxi from the Honolulu airport.
Shane Germann, a resident of North Dakota, surrendered to federal authorities in Fargo, also on Friday. Germann was an on-site manager for many of the farms where the trafficked Thai laborers were held.
Pranee Tubchumpol, the head of Global Horizons’ international relations was arrested in the LA suburb of Gardena on Thursday, and is expected to be moved to Honolulu this week.
Sam Wongsesanit of Kona, Hawaii, is scheduled to turn himself in.
The other two people indicted in this case, Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai reside in Thailand, and are, according to CNN, “considered fugitives.”
Meanwhile, Crooks & Liars reports that Mordechai Orian is a regular contributor to the republican party. And, Care2 found reports that Orian has cast himself as a “moral crusader against illegal immigration.”
Beware of Human Traffickers Masquerading as Manpower Agencies
“The largest human trafficking case ever charged in US history” involves Beverly Hills-based Global Horizons Manpower agency, 400 Thai nationals and Hawaii farms.
On their website, Global Horizons touts itself as providing an “improved labor-recruiting, labor-providing business model to meet the temporary and permanent needs of employers worldwide.” They say they understand “the aspirations of countless workers who dream of having better jobs in better places, but who wish to return to their country of native origin when they’ve completed their job.”
However, six employees of Global Horizons have just been charged with exploiting hundreds of people from rural Thailand with promises of jobs in the US—and enslaving them instead. The workers paid up to $21,000 to the manpower agency. But once they arrived in the US, their passports were taken away, they were unable to escape and they were forced to work under threats. The workers were enslaved on farms in Hawaii, and a few on the mainland.
According to Hawaii News Now, the FBI was alerted to the scheme when several trafficking victims blew the whistle by back in 2008, by contacting immigration lawyers.
This isn’t the first time Global Horizons Manpower has been accused of wrongdoings. In 2006, they were faced with a class action lawsuit by about 600 Yakima Valley farm workers who said the agency “illegally and intentionally displaced” them with temporary Thai guest workers.
Pakistanis sit on the floor of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an evacuation mission from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, August 4th, 2010. Photo by Horace Murray.
- The Epoch Times: Pakistani flood unleashes wave of human trafficking: “‘There are predators in this world who can take advantage of these terrible disasters and the chaos that ensues,’ said World Vision’s Connie Lenneberg on ABC Radio.”
- Hawaii, Alaska, among the “dirty dozen” US states with inadequate anti-human trafficking provisions. The list was compiled by anti-slavery organization (and like FTS, a member of Humanity United’s ATEST coalition) Polaris Project.
- The Christian Science Monitor: Columbia becomes new hub for human smuggling into US: “Colombia – long a starting point for much of the cocaine smuggled into the US – has now become a major hub for smuggling people from Africa and Asia to the US via Mexico.”
- BBC: Fear over Mali’s missing children: ”According to Mr Coulibaly, his four-year-old daughter Adjaratou was abducted from in front of his house in September last year. Four months later, in January this year, Adjaratou was spotted by a friend. She was with a German couple in central Bamako.”
- DispatchPolitics.com: Human traffickers supply nail-salon workers in Ohio: “What is described as a multimillion-dollar human-trafficking scheme is operating out of nail salons in Ohio, with immigrants from Southeast Asia – many of them illegal – being forced to work as “indentured servants” in exchange for passage to the U.S.”