Eight Indicted on Charges of Enslaving 100 Mexicans
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A flower grower and seven other people are charged with enslaving more than 100 undocumented workers from Mexico and forcing them to work long hours at petty wages.
Lured by promises of good pay, the Mexicans were smuggled into the United States, then kept at the 50-acre ranch until they could pay off a $435 smuggling fee, according to a federal grand jury indictment issued Tuesday.
The ranch operators beat workers and threatened to alert immigration authorities if they tried to leave the compound, which was surrounded by a 7- foot fence, the indictment alleged.
Ranch owner Edwin M. Ives, 54, and five other people face up to 52 years in prison and $2 million in fines if convicted of all 15 charges in the indictment, federal prosecutors said.
The charges involve labor and civil rights violations and a federal anti- slavery statute, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Gillam.
Two ranch foremen, Naju Lnu and Paringer Singh, were named in a criminal complaint filed last month.
″This is a very significant case that involves very serious violations of people’s human rights,″ Gillam said. The charges were developed based on allegations by former workers and ranch documents, Gillam said.
Ives’ attorney, Robert M. Talcott, has maintained that Ives was not aware of any abuses at his Griffith Ives Co. ranch in Somis, in Ventura County about 50 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The indictment alleges that Ives supervised the ranch operation and on one occasion personally recruited an undocumented worker and told another that he could not leave the ranch until his smuggling fees were paid.
Prosecutors maintain the workers toiled 16 hours a day for a fraction of the $4.25-per-hour minimum wage. In addition, workers were required to buy food and basic staples from a company store at inflated prices, the indictment said.
″As a result of these deductions, the alien workers often received net pay for over 160 hours of work in a 15-day period of less than $100, and in some cases, actually no pay, because the deductions exceeded the amount of the paycheck,″ the indictment said.
One worker allegedly suffered permanent head and back injuries during a beating. Ives refused to pay for treatment in the United States and instead gave the worker $100 to help pay for treatment in Mexico, the indictment said.
Also named in the indictment were Pedro Pinzon, 30, Rony Havive, 30, Alvaro Ruiz, 39, Josue David Pinzon, 23, and the alleged smuggler, Mauro Casares, 64.