BEVERLY HILLS—The president of Beverly Hills-based labor recruiting firm Global Horizons Manpower Inc. and five other individuals have been charged in connection with a case of forced labor, which has been developing since 2003.

On September 1, a federal grand jury in Honolulu indicted the following defendants: Global Horizon’s president Mordechai Orian; three of the firm’s associates, Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann and Sam Wongsesanit; and two Thai Labor recruiters, Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai.

The next day, the FBI attempted to take Orian into custody, but he led them astray for about 24 hours.  According to court documents, Orian “deceived and evaded FBI agents” providing sporadic, misleading and conflicting information concerning his location.”  He then flew to Hawaii to further evade FBI contact; however, he was finally arrested in Honolulu where federal prosecutors requested that the defendant be denied bail.

Assistant District Attorney Susan Cushman stated that 45-year-old Orian, an Israeli national, is a flight risk and should therefore be remanded and denied bail. Cushman said that the defendant has allegedly used numerous aliases and social security numbers in the past and could possibly flee to Israel.

Orian’s attorney, Mark Werksman, disputed the claims that his client is a flight risk, stating that Orian did not intend to evade FBI and was flying to Hawaii to surrender. “Mr. Orian has extensive ties to this state, to this country. He’s lived here for 15 years with the same wife, with three children who are United States citizens,” said Werksman. Furthermore, he maintains his client’s innocence by citing the lack of concrete evidence in the case. Orian is also the president of Adoption Services Worldwide Inc., an adoption agency San Antonio, Texas.

Federal prosecutors are not the only ones who want to retain Orian; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have issued an immigration detainer against him because he made five statements in federal forms that falsely claimed he was a U.S. citizen. As of September 15, Orian remained in jail waiting for U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Kobayashi’s response to his $1 million bail request.

The indictment claims that Orian and his associates at the firm falsely lured over 400 Thai nationals into unfair contracts by promising them lucrative opportunities and requiring them to pay a recruiting fee financed by their family property that totaled as much as $18,000. According to court documents, the defendants kept the money for themselves.

The firm invited laborers to come to the U.S. as part of the federal agricultural guest worker program, but once they arrived in the U.S., the Beverly Hills firm allegedly confiscated their passports and did not honor the generous contract. The workers were paid insufficient wages and were forced to live in poverty under constant surveillance.

The workers were compelled to stay with violence and threats of deportation to Thailand. If deported, the workers would be left in economic ruin as they would not be able to pay the debt incurred by the high recruiting fees. Additionally, Orian, Tubchumpol and Chunharutai were also charged with three substantive counts of coercing the labor of three Thai guest workers at Maui Pineapple Farm. The workers were ordered to pay an additional fee of $3,750 in order to retain their jobs with Global Horizons; those who refused were deported to Thailand.

According to the Department of Justice, “If convicted, Orian and Tubchumpol each face maximum sentences of 70 years in prison, Chunharutai faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison, Germann and Wongsesanit each face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and Sinchai, who was recently charged in Thailand with multiple counts of recruitment fraud, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted in the United States.”

The Thai Community Development Center has been working on the case from the beginning and has acted as an advocate for Thai workers in numerous other human-trafficking cases. The center is also pursuing civil charges against the Beverly Hills firm.

On September 8, they arranged a press conference in front of the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple where approximately 20 plus Thai workers disguised their identities while recounting their experience with Global Horizons.