Accused Human Trafficker Goes on the Record with Hawaii Reporter; Gabbard Won’t Run for U.S. Senate; FBI to Open New Field Office

Mordechai Orian of Global Horizons talks about the case against his company with journalist Malia Zimmerman
Mordechai Orian of Global Horizons discusses the human trafficking charges against him with Hawaii Reporter editor Malia Zimmerman

Accused Trafficker Goes on the Record; Says He is Wrongly Accused

Mordechai Orian, head of Global Horizons Manpower Company, is accused of heading up what the FBI has called the “largest human trafficking case in U.S. history.” He and 7 others are charged with trafficking Thai workers to America, including the state of Hawaii. After being indicted on January 14, 2011, three of those indicted have already plead guilty to lesser charges.

Prosecutors allege the defendants promised the Thai workers high-paying jobs in the United States.  Some paid fees as high as $21,000 to secure U.S. jobs, putting up family farms in Thailand as collateral. But once they arrived in the U.S., the workers’ passports were confiscated and they were threatened by their handlers.

Nearly all of the 600 alleged victims were forced to work on farms in Hawaii before being moved to farms in other states. A trial for the remaining defendants in the case is scheduled for February 2012.

Orian, who maintains his innocence, is being held in Hawaii through an electronic monitoring system by federal authorities.

He sat down with Hawaii Reporter editor Malia Zimmerman to dispute the charges against him. See the 1 hour exclusive video interview here. Orian said his criminal defense lawyer gave him the go-ahead to do the interview because he is not guilty.

Orian also discussed a separate civil case filed April 20, 2011 against Global Horizons and 6 Hawaii farms and two mainland farms by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for alleged labor abuses involving 200 Thai workers.

The commission wants back pay as much as $300,000 in damages for each worker who they said had their rights violated when they had their passports confiscated and were threatened with deportation and violence if they complained about poor housing and working conditions.

The case is the subject of a French documentary and will be featured in a series on Al Jazeera London television. The story is making news in Asia, with Hawaii Reporter’s stories featured in the Bangkok Post.

State Sen. Mike Gabbard Ends Speculation He’ll Run for U.S. Senate

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Kapolei, who is best known for his social conservative stances against civil unions and gay marriage, said he won’t run for the U.S. Senate seat that Dan Akaka is vacating.

“Many of you have called, emailed or cornered me at Costco encouraging me to jump in the race, but after serious consideration, I’ve decided to pass,” Gabbard said in a letter to supporters.

Gabbard, who is up for re-election to the state Senate, said he will be focusing on keeping his senate seat.

And one congressional run per family per election year may be enough. Mike Gabbard’s daughter, Honolulu City Council Member Tulsi Gabbard, has already announced plans to run for U.S. House 2nd Congressional District, and Gabbard says he will be helping her as well.

If Mike Gabbard did run, he’d be challenging both Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and former Congressman Ed Case, D-Hawaii in the Democratic primary. Case beat Mike Gabbard in a previous Congressional race.

FBI Opens New Satellite Office

The FBI in Hawaii will break ground on a new field office in Kapolei on the island of Oahu this Wednesday, July 7.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr. will speak at the event.

*An earlier report said the office would open July 7 but in fact the FBI will launch construction on the project this month. We apologize for the error.