Rancher Will Pay $1.5 Million in Slavery Case
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A rancher accused of enslaving hundreds of Mexican workers, paying as little as $1 an hour for 16-hour workdays, has agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges, a prosecutor says.
Elsewhere, a former Colorado restaurateur who took illegal immigrants into his home and forced them to work long hours without pay at his Chinese restaurant has been sentenced to prison.
In Los Angeles, Edwin M. Ives, 55, will plead guilty to three felony and four misdemeanor counts of immigration and wage violations at an April 13 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol L. Gillam said Monday.
Ives faces up to 18 years in prison. He also agreed to pay $1.5 million in back pay to about 300 workers.
″This settlement certainly sends out a message to the agricultural community that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated,″ the prosecutor said.
In return for the plea, slavery and extortion counts will be dropped and charges against his wife, Dolly, 47, also will be dropped, she said.
The couple, their Ives-Griffith Co. and nine others were accused in a May 1990 indictment of abusing workers they lured from Mexican villages.
The workers were kept fenced at Ives’ 50-acre flower ranch near Camarillo, northwest of Los Angeles, and told they must work off the cost of smuggling them into the United States, prosecutors said.
The indictment alleged the workers toiled 16 hours a day for as little as $1 per hour and were forced to buy their food and other goods from a company store at inflated prices.
Defense attorney Robert M. Talcott said ″it’s still our position that this was a bunch of hogwash, that this is not a slave case, and this is not an extortion case.″
In Colorado Springs, Colo., Jimmy Bai, owner and chef of a now-defunct Chinese restaurant, was sentenced to 16 months in prison, fined $3,000 and given three years of supervised release in a plea bargain with the U.S. attorney’s office last week.
Authorities say Bai and a Los Angeles woman recruited 14 illegal immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador and China, who were living in California, to work at the restaurant.
Bai was arrested in July after his workers told federal investigators they were forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, without pay. An associate pleaded guilty last year to interstate transportation of illegal immigrants and was placed on probation.