A business owner indicted for the human trafficking of 400 laborers from Thailand is a frequent donor to the Republican Party and recently waged war against other companies involved with hiring illegal immigrants.
The Associated Press reports that according to the allegations, "the recruiters lured the workers with false promises of lucrative jobs, then confiscated their passports, failed to honor their employment contracts and threatened to deport them."
The FBI considers this the largest human-trafficking case in US history, and those indicted face maximum sentences of five to 70 years in prison, the Justice Department confirmed to AP.
The man at the helm is Mordechai Orian, 45, President and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Global Horizons Manpower Inc., a labor contracting group. Five of his affiliates and contractors were also charged in the scheme.
Orian gave tens of thousands of dollars to the National Republican Congressional Committee on eight occasions between 2004 and 2006, according to the election records database Newsmeat. His largest contribution of $11,000 came on July 13, 2006. Orian also gave $2000 to the GOP-affiliated Restore America PAC twice in that period.
During those years the Republican-led Congress debated and sought to pass a major immigration reform bill that involved, among many other things, an expanded guest-worker program. The legislation ultimately failed.
In 2006, Global Horizons was implicated for violating labor laws and underpaying 88 Thai workers. Orian initially denied the charges but ultimately settled the case for $300,000.
In 2007, Orian legally -- and unsuccessfully -- went after a rival labor contractor, J&A Contracting, to whom he had lost one of his biggest clients. According to Fortune magazine, he claimed it was because J&A "provides cheaper, illegal workers, scooping workers up on street corners by the vanload and delivering them to farms." He also claimed he had "evidence of falsified Social Security cards" as proof.
In what now appears to be a twisted irony, Orian at the time presented himself as a moral crusader against illegal immigration. His lawyer then, David Klehm, told Fortune the lawsuit would reflect a new era of accountability for employers when it comes to workers.
Diane Sweet contributed research to this report.