On Friday, a federal judge complied with the request of federal prosecutors to dismiss what would have been the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history on the grounds that the government lacked the evidence to convict.
“To dismiss a case with no intention of bringing it back as a new indictment is very unusual,” said Michael Green, a lawyer for Global Horizons in Honolulu, the organization whose two top officials–CEO Mordechai Orian and the company’s director of international relations, Pranee Tubchumpol–were charged. “You never see the government just walk away from a case that they spent millions of dollars on.”
The government originally accused Global Horizons, a company out of Los Angeles, with “manipulating 600 Thai workers it placed at farms across the United States.”
Specifically, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had alleged that the company brought workers to the U.S. “on the promise of high-paying wages and temporary visas” only to be “forced into vermin-ridden housing, denied the opportunity to leave the premises and subjected to harassment, including physical assault by their overseers.”
But the government’s case began to unravel when federal prosecutors dropped similar charges against Alec and Michael Sou, owners of Aloun Farms out of Hawaii after lead prosecutor Susan French admitted she “inaccurately stated to a grand jury that workers could not be charged recruiting fees when they traveled to Hawaii in 2004. The law was changed in late 2008 to prohibit recruiting fees.”
Ms. French later left the prosecution team citing unspecified health complications.
Had the Justice Department not bungled the case, it would have been the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history.