WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced the indictment of Alec Souphone Sou and Mike Mankone Sou, owners of Aloun Farm in Hawaii, and Thai labor recruiter William Khoo late yesterday for engaging in a conspiracy to commit forced labor and visa fraud. The charges arise from the defendants’ alleged scheme to coerce the labor and services of Thai nationals brought by the defendants to Hawaii to work under the federal agricultural guest worker program. Both Sou defendants are also charged with conspiring to commit document servitude.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, Alec and Mike Sou each face maximum sentences of 15 years in prison and William Khoo faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Alec Sou, Mike Sou and William Khoo conspired and devised a scheme to obtain the labor of 44 Thai nationals by enticing them to come to Aloun Farms in Hawaii with false promises of lucrative jobs, and then maintaining their labor at the farm through threats of serious economic harm, according to the indictment. They arranged for the Thai workers to pay high recruitment fees, which were financed by debts secured with the workers’ family property and homes. Significant portions of these fees went to the defendants themselves, as alleged in the indictment. After arrival at Aloun Farms, the Sou defendants confiscated the Thai nationals’ passports and failed to honor the employment contracts. The Sou defendants maintained the Thai nationals’ labor by threatening to send them back to Thailand, where they would face serious economic harms created by the debts. The indictment also charges that the defendants engaged in a visa fraud conspiracy by making false representations in documents filed to obtain employment-based visas.
This case is being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Susan French and Kevonne Small of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.