On September 2, news broke of the biggest human trafficking bust in the history of the U.S. Beverly Hills-based labor recruiting agency Global Horizons Manpower’s CEO (an Israeli man named Mordechai Orian) and five of his colleagues where indicted for enslaving 400 Thai nationals on farms in Hawaii and the mainland.
Two out of the six people indicted in this case were featured in a Mother Jones investigative article that came out in the magazine’s May/June, 2010 issue. ‘Bound for America‘ is written by John Bowe, the author of Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy. It follows the story of a Thai man, Nikhom Intajak, who unwittingly becomes the victim of Global Horizon’s alleged human trafficking scheme.
Bowe writes that Intajak (whose name was changed to hide his identity) was recruited in Thailand by a certain Pochanee Sinchai—one of the people indicted in the bust.
Sinchai sent Intajak to Global Horizons representatives in Seattle. From there, Intajak was trafficked to a Yakima Valley apple farm, then to a pineapple farm in Hawaii. He worked under abusive conditions, threatened with deportation and violence, and saddled with insurmountable debt.
Bowe’s article also featured an interview with the alleged ringleader of the human trafficking scheme, Global Horizons CEO Mordechai Orian. (In response to accusations of human trafficking, Bowe quotes Orian as saying: “Every day, I take my kids to school. Sometimes, I get into a traffic jam. That’s the only trafficking I do.”)
John Bowe’s investigations were supported with a grant from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Yesterday, the Investigative Fund’s website published Bowe’s reflections on the public impact of ‘Bound for America’ in an article titled ‘Behind a Human Trafficking Investigation.’ The article gives a sort of back stage view of how he produced the Mother Jones article. Bowe started working on the story back in 2007, and struggled to find a venue for it:
“I pitched the story to 60 Minutes. They were extremely interested. ‘Human trafficking’ always sounds so exciting at first. Over time, however, it became clear that they wanted images of workers behind bars, in chains—preferably female sex slaves with ripped T-shirts. The fact that the Thais were male and had never been tied up, chained, or even (most of them) properly beaten rendered them unsuitable for television journalism. Too complicated. And not visually compelling.”
Did John Bowe’s article impact the FBI’s investigations? Bowe writes, “I hope it did, but who knows? What I do know is that my piece was the first full-length investigation into [Mordechai Orian’s] operations.”
It’s a fascinating read! See it in its entirety here.