1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 6/15/2011 4:38:58 PM ET 2011-06-15T20:38:58

A farm supervisor has pleaded guilty to confiscating passports from Thai laborers to prevent them from fleeing in one of the nation's largest human trafficking cases.

  1. Stories from
    1. Hilary Duff: My Split from Mike Comrie Has Been 'Very Difficult'
    2. This Ice Cream Changes Color When You Lick It
    3. Chris Pratt Improvised a Parks and Rec Scene by Going Naked - and Scaring Amy Poehler
    4. John Legend: How My Teachers Helped Me Cope with My Parents' Divorce
    5. What We're Reading This Weekend: Tales of Young Love and Loss

Sam Wongsesanit, 40, entered his plea to a conspiracy charge in U.S. District Court on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors to dismiss other charges against him.

Wongsesanit is the third defendant in a federal human trafficking case involving Los Angeles-based labor recruiting company Global Horizons to plead guilty in U.S. courts. The company recruited Thai laborers to work on farms in Hawaii and Washington state.

Eight defendants were indicted in January on charges of luring about 600 Thai nationals to the U.S., putting them into debt, confiscating their passports and threatening to deport them, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Through successful prosecution of those who take advantage of immigrant workers, we strive to ensure that the United States continues to be a land of economic opportunity, as it has for generations of workers preceding them," said Florence Nakakuni, U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii.

Wongsesanit faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution to the victims.

"I took their passports, but I didn't know I was breaking the law, but now I do and I take full responsibility," Wongsesanit told U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin S.C. Chang.

He acknowledged confiscating passports from May 2004 to January 2008.

He was charged with several additional counts of forced labor and document servitude, but those charges were dropped when he pleaded guilty to a single crime.

Two other defendants, Shane Germann and Bruce Schwartz, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Another associate of the defendants, Podjanee Sinchai, was charged and convicted in Thailand with recruitment fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, according to the Justice Department.

The president of Global Horizons, Mordechai Orian, is still awaiting trial.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Courtesy of Steve Mason

    Parents plead forgiveness for late daughter's $200K student-loan debt

    7/31/2014 7:10:12 PM +00:00 2014-07-31T19:10:12
  1. Special hospital unit in Georgia prepares for Ebola patient

    Emory University Hospital in Atlanta said it is preparing an isolation unit to receive a patient with Ebola disease "within the next several days."

    7/31/2014 9:52:34 PM +00:00 2014-07-31T21:52:34
  1. Kerry and UN announce 72-hour cease-fire in Gaza

    There was no immediate comment from Hamas or Israeli forces, but the United Nations representative in Jerusalem received promises that all parties have agreed to the cease-fire, according to a joint statement from the U.N. and State Department.

    7/31/2014 9:55:08 PM +00:00 2014-07-31T21:55:08
  1. Courtesy of Tyler Doss

    Watch therapy dog help boy move arm again after brain surgeries

    8/1/2014 12:50:14 AM +00:00 2014-08-01T00:50:14