HONOLULU (HawaiiNewNow)- The head of an alleged human trafficking operation surrendered to the FBI in Honolulu Friday afternoon and was being held without bail after pleading not guilty in federal court.
Mordechai Orian is accused of importing foreign workers, then mistreating them and failing to live up to promises. The FBI calls it the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted in the United States.
Orian, a 45 year old Israeli national, is chief executive officer of Global Horizons, a company that recruits workers from impoverished countries and finds them jobs elsewhere, often in the United States.
"What for me and what for my clients was the major injustice was the fact that they were lied to as far as how long they would be guaranteed work in the United States," said Clare Hanusz.
The government credits Hanusz and fellow immigration attorney Melissa Vincenty with helping break the case. Hanusz and Vincenty met with workers from Thailand who were allegedly recruited by Global Horizons.
Some of the workers say they paid Global Horizons as much as $21,000 in return for three years employment on farms in the United States.
The laborers planned use wages from their first year paying off the money they borrowed to get the jobs. Wages from the second and third years would be profit.
"What happened was they were moved from farm to farm and often times they would work for a new farm in a new state and maybe work for a week or two and then there would be no work for weeks or months," Hanusz told Hawaii News Now.
Because they were not being paid, the workers were not able to pay their debts back home in Thailand. And according to an indictment made public Thursday the workers could not flee. Their passports had allegedly been taken away and they were allegedly held captive on the farms.
If Orian is found guilty on all current charges, he could be sentenced to as much as 70 years in prison. It is possible more charges are coming soon.
"In court today the Department of Justice prosecutor did elude to the fact that the superseding indictment might be coming down the pipeline. However, that is a decision that is made by the grand jury whether there is probable cause for a superseding indictment, so we're not going to get into that. We're going to let the evidence be presented in the grand jury room," FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said.
The government considers Orian a flight risk. He will be held without bail at the Federal Detention Center until a detention hearing Wednesday, September 8.
Five other people were indicted with Orian.
Pranee Tubchumpol, 44, surrendered to the FBI in Los Angeles Wednesday.
The FBI said Kona resident Sam Wongsesanit, 39, has agreed to surrender next week.
Shane Germann, 41, surrendered to the FBI in Fargo, North Dakota Wednesday.
The FBI believes Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai are both in Thailand and are considered fugitives.