Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki
September 23, 2011
Turfgrass Weed Control In Hawaii
Dr. Fred Yelverton
Professor Of Crop Science And Extension Specialist
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Opening statements could begin as early as today for the federal trial of brothers Alex and Mike Sou of Aloun Farms on charges of forced labor and related counts.
U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway told the lawyers this afternoon that a jury should be selected by lunch Thursday and they should plan on making their opening statements.
Mollway presided a day of jury selection Wednesday and will resume the selection process on Thursday morning.
The brothers are accused of threatening Thailand laborers with harm if they did not work at the Kapolei-based Aloun Farms.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
Young Brothers Seeking Rate Increase
The cost of living on the islands continues to rise as Young Brothers, Ltd. (YB) seeks to increase their shipping rates. During a visit to Molokai last week, YB’s Vice President of Strategic Planning and Government Affairs Roy Catalani explained that dropping volumes of cargo are forcing the company to apply to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a rate increase of about 24 percent. Their last rate increase was in August 2009.
Along with lower cargo volume, a second shipping company, Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines, has entered the Hawaii market. They are “cherry-picking” service to larger harbors but not serving smaller ports like Molokai, according to Catalani. Pasha began service in February; their presence could also affect YB’s rising costs of operations.
“Young Brothers has lost about 30 percent of its over-all cargo volumes since 2008,” said Catalani. It came down, he said, to whether the company would increase its rates or decrease its services.
Matthew Humphrey, YB general manager, said Young Brothers has already decreased frequency of sailing to larger ports, while maintaining a minimum of twice-weekly trips to smaller harbors like Molokai. Continue reading
LUBBOCK, Texas — Randy McGee spent $28,000 in one month pumping water onto about 500 acres in West Texas before he decided to give up irrigating 75 acres of corn and focus on other crops that stood a better chance in the drought.
He thought rain might come and save those 75 acres, but it didn’t and days of triple-digit heat sucked the remaining moisture from the soil. McGee walked recently through rows of sunbaked and stunted stalks, one of thousands of farmers counting his losses amid record heat and drought this year.
The drought has spread over much of the southern U.S., leaving Oklahoma the driest it has been since the 1930s and setting records from Louisiana to New Mexico. But the situation is especially severe in Texas, which trails only California in agricultural productivity.
McGee is still watering another variety of corn, cotton and sorghum but the loss of nearly one-sixth of his acres after spending so much on irrigation weighs on him.
“Kind of depressing,” the 34-year-old farmer said. “You use that much of a resource and nothing to show for it. This year, no matter what you do, it’s not quite enough.” Continue reading
Two brothers who run one of Hawaii’s largest vegetable farms are going to trial this week on federal charges they illegally shipped 44 workers from Thailand, housed them in dirty metal containers and forced them to work for little pay.
Alec and Mike Sou of Aloun Farms each face up to 20 years in prison without parole if found guilty after they backed out of a plea deal last September that came with a five-year maximum sentence. The trial opens with jury selection Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors claim the Sou brothers gamed the United States’ guest-worker visa system in a way that economically trapped the rural north Thailand laborers on the 3,000-acre Oahu farm, which grows a variety of foods including lettuce, apples, bananas, parsley, watermelon and pumpkin year-round in Hawaii’s mild climate. Continue reading
The sentencing hearing for the owners of Aloun Farms on forced-labor charges will continue in September because brothers Alec and Mike Sou refused to admit to committing acts to which they had pleaded guilty in January.
Alec Souphone Sou, president and general manager of the Ewa farm, is facing 46 to 57 months in prison for conspiring to commit forced labor in connection with the importation of 44 farmworkers from Thailand in 2004, according to federal sentencing guidelines.
Mike Mankone Sou, vice president and operations manager, is facing 41 to 51 months in prison for the same crime.
The sentencing guidelines are based on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the crime and a defendant’s actions and criminal history. Alec Sou has a higher prison range because he has prior DUI convictions. Continue reading
Two former governors and community leaders have submitted letters to a federal judge in support of two brothers facing sentencing today for employing Thai immigrants under forced labor conditions in 2004 and 2005 at the well-known Aloun Farms.
John Waihee and Ben Cayetano, former Land Board Chairman William Paty, Hawaii Foodbank President Richard Grimm and dozens of others sent letters to U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway on behalf of Alec and Mike Sou, who hope to avoid a prison term.
Aloun Farms, a major agricultural business in the state, produces Asian vegetables and other crops on about 3,000 acres in the Kapolei area.
Alec Sou, president and general manager, and Mike Sou, vice president and operations manager, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge after they helped bring in 44 laborers from Thailand in 2003. They admitted they told workers they would be sent back to Thailand if they were disobedient or if they tried to leave.
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for 22 of the workers contend that the immigrants were mistreated and forced to lived in substandard conditions, but the Sous’ lawyers and supporters say the brothers are being unfairly characterized and that their farm operation will suffer if they are sent to prison. Continue reading
HONOLULU – A Maui accountant who led a long-running Ponzi scheme that cost his investors $8 million was sentenced Wednesday to serve nearly 12 years in federal prison without the possibility of parole.
Lloyd Y. Kimura used his business, Maui Industrial Loan and Finance Co., to attract investments since 1986, taking money collected from later customers to pay initial clients. He pleaded guilty in January.
Dressed in a white prison jumpsuit but without handcuffs, the 61-year-old apologized for his crimes.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and I accept the ruling of the court,” Kimura told U.S. District Judge David Ezra.
Kimura, the brother of Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Jay Kimura, was ordered to repay his 50 victims the $8 million they lost.
His assets amount to only a fraction of the amount he owes, so at least 10 percent of his income must be paid to victims after he’s released from prison, Ezra said.
He was given 11 years, eight months in prison, a sentence on the high end of federal guidelines, which called for a prison term of between 10 years and 12.5 years.
Kimura’s sentence may have been higher if he hadn’t cooperated with authorities to repay his victims and accept guilt, Ezra and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson said.
Ezra said Kimura was motivated by “personal greed” when he lost his victims’ life savings and college savings, denying them comfortable retirements and the ability to provide educations for their children. Continue reading