Two Brothers Plead Guilty in Conspiracy to Hold Thai Workers in Forced Labor in Hawaii
WASHINGTON—Defendants Alec Sou and Mike Sou, co-owners of Aloun Farm, pleaded guilty on Jan.13, 2010, in federal district court in Honolulu, to conspiring to commit forced labor. The two defendants, who are brothers, each face up to five years in prison for their respective roles in a labor trafficking scheme that held Thai agricultural workers in service at Aloun Farm through a scheme of debts, threats, and restraint.
During their respective plea hearings, the defendants acknowledged that they conspired with one another and with others to hold 44 Thai men in forced labor on a farm operated by the defendants, using a scheme of physical restraint and threats of serious harm to intimidate the workers and hold them in fear of attempting to leave the defendants’ service.
Farm owners plead guilty to forced labor charges
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 14, 2010
Forty-four agricultural workers from Thailand were forced to work on Aloun Farm for wages lower than what they were promised and required by law, said Kevonne Small, trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Some were forced to live in a storage container on the farm, and none could leave because the farm owners kept their passports, Small said.
Aloun Farm owners Alec and Mike Sou pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to conspiring to commit forced labor in connection with the importation of the workers in 2004.
Each faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced in June. However, the government will ask the court for a lighter sentence because they have accepted responsibility for their actions, according to their plea agreements. The government also promises to seek further sentence reductions based on the value of the brothers’ cooperation in the ongoing federal investigation into the recruitment and employment of Thai agricultural workers.