Thai workers were allegedly recruited by a Beverly Hills-based firm called Global Horizons. Six of Global Horizon's officers and recruiters have been indicted.
It is the largest case of its kind. Four hundred Thai immigrants were involved in the federal case, but visas were given to up to 1,100 to work on farms in the U.S. In many cases there was no water, no electricity. Their passports were taken from them. They didn't get paid.
"At the end of the day what you have are victims completely exploited, taken advantage of and denied their freedom and their rights," said Chancee Martorell, founder and executive director of the Thai Community Development Center. "Slavery, and that's what unfortunately the guest worker program has become."
Global Horizon Chief Executive Officer Mordechai Orian was interviewed by ABC7 three years ago. He filed a lawsuit against a rival who he says was
"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars because we needed to pay these guys who came from overseas this money," said Orian in 2007.
Orian turned himself in to authorities in Honolulu, Hawaii, for exploiting immigrants.
The Thai Community Development Center in Los Angeles is representing nearly 300 immigrants.
"No running water, no electricity a lot of times, under guard in some instances, and kept under constant surveillance," said Martorell.
They had to pay $20,000 to get here and then supposedly pay Global Horizons back the money. So they didn't have any money in some cases to even buy food.
The charges are considered very serious. If they're convicted, they face up to 70 years in prison.