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FBI Busts Major U.S. Human Trafficking Ring In Hawaii

Back in 2006, Global Horizons chief Mordechai Orian (right) was photographed shaking hands with United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, left, after signing a labor pact to improve worker conditions. Now, would you be surprised if I told

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Back in 2006, Global Horizons chief Mordechai Orian (right) was photographed shaking hands with United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, left, after signing a labor pact to improve worker conditions.

Now, would you be surprised if I told you one of the major players in this ring, Israeli national Mordechai Orian, is a big Republican donor? Of course you wouldn't.

More disturbing (at least to me) in light of the charges is his affiliation with a Texas adoption agency.

It turns out that Orian is listed as the president and "business manager" for Adoption Services Worldwide Inc., a San Antonio, Texas adoption agency active in international adoptions. The website features many pictures of Orian with happy adoptive families. I have to wonder: Exactly what kind of business services did this Beverly Hills resident provide to this Texas company?

Here's hoping he wasn't using his control over these trapped and vulnerable workers to coerce them and their families into giving up children for adoption. Perhaps he's simply trying to do something good to make up for all the bad he was doing; I certainly hope so.

HONOLULU -- Six recruiters were accused Thursday of luring 400 laborers from Thailand to the United States and forcing them to work, according to a federal indictment that the FBI called the largest human-trafficking case ever charged in U.S. history.

The indictment alleges that the scheme was orchestrated by four employees of labor recruiting company Global Horizons Manpower Inc. and two Thailand-based recruiters. It said the recruiters lured the workers with false promises of lucrative jobs, then confiscated their passports, failed to honor their employment contracts and threatened to deport them.

Once the Thai laborers arrived in the United States starting in May 2004, they were put to work and have since been sent to sites in states including Hawaii, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, according to attorneys and advocates.

Many laborers were initially taken to farms in Hawaii and Washington, where work conditions were the worst, said Chancee Martorell, executive director for the Los Angeles-based Thai Community Development Center, which represents 263 Thai workers who were brought to the U.S. by Global Horizons.

[...] The six defendants include Global Horizons President and CEO Mordechai Orian, 45; Director of International Relations Pranee Tubchumpol, 44; Hawaii regional supervisor Shane Germann, 41; and onsite field supervisor Sam Wongsesanit, 39. The Thailand recruiters were identified as Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai.

But wait, it gets better:

In 2006, Global Horizons was implicated for violating labor laws and underpaying 88 Thai workers. Orian initially denied the charges but ultimately settled the case for $300,000.

In 2007, Orian legally -- and unsuccessfully -- went after a rival labor contractor, J&A Contracting, to whom he had lost one of his biggest clients. According to Fortune magazine, he claimed it was because J&A "provides cheaper, illegal workers, scooping workers up on street corners by the vanload and delivering them to farms." He also claimed he had "evidence of falsified Social Security cards" as proof.

In what now appears to be a twisted irony, Orian at the time presented himself as a moral crusader against illegal immigration. His lawyer then, David Klehm, told Fortune the lawsuit would reflect a new era of accountability for employers when it comes to workers.

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