Key witness testifies in Aloun Farms trial

Sketch by Jacqueline Chun
Sketch by Jacqueline Chun

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Matee Chowsanitphon told the jury he recruited 44 Thai nationals to come to Hawaii and work on the farm owned by Mike and Alec Sou.

To sell Alec Sou on the idea, Chowsanitphon said he offered him $1,500 a man and Sou initially refused.

"I asked Alec Sou if he would be interested in an increased incentive. And he agreed," Chowsanitphon said.

He told the jury the amount was raised to $2,500 per worker. He said he met with Alec Sou on different occasions to iron out the deal.

At one meeting Chowsanitphon said, "Alec said if he kept the workers passports, they wouldn't run away and work for someone else. I told him this was against the law."

The Sous are accused of forcing the workers to work on their farm in 2004, housing them in unsanitary conditions, and paying them $600 to $800 dollars less a month than their employment contract stipulated.

Chowsanitphon said Alec Sou revealed the reduced wages the day after the workers arrived.

"When I explained about the wages they were all unhappy," he said.

Chowsanitphon was convicted of visa fraud involving the Thai workers. He was placed under house arrest, put on probation and ordered to repay them $48,000.  He is one of the government's key witnesses against the Sous.

If convicted they face up to 20 years in prison without parole.

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