Local

Thai workers decry forced labor scam by Beverly Hills firm

Two dozen Thai farm workers gather at the Wat Thai of Los Angeles.  Panida Rzonca with the Thai Community Development Center translates for a worker identified as
Two dozen Thai farm workers gather at the Wat Thai of Los Angeles. Panida Rzonca with the Thai Community Development Center translates for a worker identified as "Lee." The group is among 400 Thai men who claim to be human traffic victims of the international labor company, Global Horizons.
Patricia Nazario/KPCC

Thai farm workers today told reporters in LA how they got caught up six years ago in what federal prosecutors say was the nation’s biggest human-trafficking operation.

The immigrants say recruiters promised to pay them 20 times what they’d get in Thailand. Instead, they say they were herded into labor camps in Hawaii and Washington to work for little money at all. One worker identified as “Lee” says the workers were underfed - and under guard.

"There were threats of violence if we didn’t follow the rules and the things we were forbidden to do. No one dared to disobey because we were afraid for our safety and they would also deport us to Thailand," Lee said.

Last week, federal prosecutors in Hawaii brought charges against six people connected with Global Horizons – the now-closed Beverly Hills firm that provided workers.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Global Horizons denied the workers were mistreated. She said Global Horizons was the target of groups that oppose the government’s H2A program that brings foreign workers into the U.S. to help farmers pick seasonal crops.