The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Thursday that a Hawaii grand jury has indicted six people on human trafficking charges [press release]. The defendants allegedly enticed approximately 400 Thai nationals to come to the US by falsely promising them job opportunities and then forcing them to work at farms in Washington and Hawaii by threatening economic harm. According to the indictment, the six people, three of whom work for Global Horizons Manpower, charged the Thai nationals high recruitment fees [Honolulu Star-Advertiser report], which the Thai nationals paid by taking out loans secured by their house or land. The defendants told the Thai nationals that if they refused to work on the farms, they would be sent back to Thailand where they would be unable to repay the loans and risk having their houses and land foreclosed on. Prosecutors also claim that some workers were forced to pay $3,750 to keep their jobs. Two defendants were arrested [AP report] Thursday, two are expected to turn themselves in soon and two remain at large, presumably in Thailand. According to the DOJ, this will be the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted in the US. The defendants face maximum prison sentences ranging from five to 70 years.
In June, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [official website] reported that human trafficking is a growing problem in Europe [JURIST report]. Earlier in June, the UNODC issued a report on the globalization of organized crime, which addressed, among other things, the global economic impact of human trafficking [JURIST report]. Also in June, the US State Department [official website] issued its annual report on human trafficking conditions [JURIST report] across the globe, which found the US "has a serious problem with human trafficking, both for labor and commercial sexual exploitation."