Rancher Accused of Slavery Also Charged with Racketeering, Extortion
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A flower rancher already accused of enslaving undocumented workers on his farm was charged Thursday with racketeering, extortion and threatening witnesses.
The federal charges filed against Edwin Mitchell Ives and eight others are in addition to the slavery, immigration and labor violations alleged in a May indictment.
The new 46-count indictment also names Ives’ wife, Dolly, 47, as a defendant.
″She ran the office,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Gillam said. ″We have enough information to know that she knew what was going on.″
Ives, 53, and his employees allegedly smuggled more than 100 illegal aliens into the country to work in his fields for paltry wages. They had to buy food and sundries at inflated prices from a company store, prosecutors said.
Ives’ lawyer, Robert Talcott, said he hadn’t read the complete indictment.
″My initial reaction is that I find it a total piece of rubbish,″ Talcott said. ″It represents nothing more than a desperate attempt to bolster a faltering case. I never believed the government had a case.″
Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said from Washington the indictment ″demonstrates our strong determination to extend the umbrella of human and civil rights protection to all - including illegal aliens.″
Ives, his wife and three others were scheduled to appear Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Reichmann. Prosecutors said they will request that Ives be detained pending trial because of the witness tampering allegations, Gillam said.
″That’s absurd,″ Talcott said. ″He’s been out on bail for nine months since the original indictment.″
Eight defendants - Ives, six ranch overseers and an alleged smuggler - were named in the May indictment. They were charged with violating labor and civil rights laws.
The new racketeering count gives prosecutors the opportunity to seek the forfeiture of more than $5 million worth of assets belonging to the Ives, their company Griffith Ives Co., and the other nine defendants.
Those assets include two ranches in Ventura County, one in San Bernardino County, a Palm Springs home and numerous bank accounts belonging to the Ives, Gillam said.
The indictment alleges that an Ives’ employee, Hector Hernandez Chavez, 34, went to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he attempted to persuade many of 60 alleged victims, who live there, to stay put.
The victims were allegedly threatened and intimidated and were offered fake U.S. immigration papers if they agreed not to return to Los Angeles to testify before a federal grand jury, Gillam said.
Others were told they would be arrested and jailed by U.S. prosecutors if they returned, Gillam said.