JULY 24, 2012
After spending millions of dollars to prosecute what it touted as the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has suspiciously dismissed it claiming that it lacked evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
This despite the fact that three defendants in the case against a Los Angeles-based labor recruiting company (Global Horizons) pleaded guilty. You can’t make this stuff up. The DOJ went from one extreme to another, after dedicating two years and blowing millions of taxpayer dollars, and what do Americans get? A vague government statement that obviously conceals details of the scandal.
The three defendants who pleaded guilty will now receive the opportunity to retract their pleas, as if nothing ever happened. Here is why; a team of government attorneys and agents determined the government is “unable to prove the elements of the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to a DOJ spokeswoman quoted in a local newspaper covering the case in Honolulu. The paper called it a “stunning turnaround.”
Less than a year ago a similar case against a different company was also dropped because the same federal prosecutors evidently screwed up. In that case the DOJ accused the owners of Hawaii’s Aloun Farms of utilizing illegal tactics to keep foreign workers in their service. Charges were dismissed after the lead prosecutor misstated the law in front of the grand jury, according to a news report. Where did these folks go to law school?
The Global Horizons case got going in 2010 when the feds, with great fanfare, obtained a grand jury indictment against the firm for exploiting hundreds of Thai workers and keeping them as indentured laborers on farms in several states, including Hawaii and Washington. In all, six people were charged in the human trafficking conspiracy and the DOJ claimed they faced decades in prison.
A year later half of the defendants pleaded guilty and the number of exploited workers went up to 600. The DOJ issued a press release announcing the guilty pleas and Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said it was the “largest human trafficking scheme ever seen by the Department of Justice.” Perez reiterated his agency’s commitment to “prosecuting cases of human trafficking, both large and small, in order to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our country.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcing work place discrimination laws, also filed a lawsuit against Global Horizons, saying it was the largest human trafficking case in agriculture to date. At some farms the Thai workers were forced to live in dilapidated housing infested with rats and insects and they were forbidden from leaving the premises, according to the EEOC. On the job, they endured screaming, threats and physical assaults.
“Foreign workers should be treated as equals when working in the U.S., not as second class citizens,” said an EEOC district director announcing his agency’s lawsuit. “All workers – foreign and U.S. – are protected under the law and have the right to complain of such employment abuses which poison the moral fabric of our society.”
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