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Motions seek to dismiss Oklahoma human trafficking lawsuits

December 23, 2018
FILE - This undated file photo shows Montana Mike's Steakhouse in Clinton, Okla. Attorneys are awaiting a federal judge's ruling on motions to dismiss two human trafficking lawsuits against an Oklahoma couple and several of their companies. The motions in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City deny the allegations and seek to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed in 2017 by three Filipino immigrants and a similar lawsuit filed in June by three Jamaican immigrants husband-and-wife Walter and Carolyn Schumacher and companies, including the steakhouse, they own and operate. (Robert S. Bryan/The Clinton Daily News via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two motions to dismiss federal human trafficking lawsuits against an Oklahoma couple and several companies they operate are pending, including one that’s been awaiting action for more than a year.

The motions in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City deny the allegations and seek to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed in 2017 by three Filipino immigrants who came into the country on temporary work visas in 2012 and a similar lawsuit filed in June by three Jamaican immigrants who came to the U.S. under student work visas between 2008 and 2012.

When a ruling might come is unknown.

“Right now we’re sitting and waiting for the court to issue a decision,” said Chris Willett, an attorney for Equal Justice Center who represents the immigrant workers.

Both lawsuits allege husband-and-wife Walter and Carolyn Schumacher and companies they own and operate in Clinton, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City, paid workers less than minimum wage, charged for housing that was to be free or low-cost, and provided fewer work hours than promised.

The Schumacher’s attorney, Kevin Donelson, did not return phone calls for comment. Donelson said after the first lawsuit was filed in 2017 that the couple denies all allegations.

The motions to dismiss — one filed in September 2017 in the case involving the Filipino workers and one filed this past August in the lawsuit involving the Jamaicans — say the Schumachers and the companies “vigorously dispute” the allegation and that they “will ultimately disprove the false narrative set forth,” in the lawsuits.

The U.S. Department of Labor is also investigating two of the Schumacher’s companies where some of the immigrants worked, Hotelmacher, LLC, which operates a Holiday Inn Express, and Steakmacher, LLC, which does business as Montana Mike’s Steakhouse, but declined further comment, according to spokesman Juan Rodriguez.

Labor Department records show its Wage and Hour Division has found Hotelmacher and Steakmacher failed to comply with the wages it offered to workers that include the Filipino immigrants, improperly classified job requirements and failed to provide proper notifications to federal immigration agencies.

A motion to either dismiss or delay any action on the Labor Department findings has been denied and a hearing on the matter has been scheduled for February.

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