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Hawaii News

Farm owners describe wrongdoing

The owners of Aloun Farms have submitted responses admitting to wrongdoing in support of their guilty pleas to forced-labor conspiracy charges involving 44 workers from Thailand.

Lawyers for Alec and Mike Sou filed their clients’ admissions after Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway postponed the sentencing last week when the two brothers refused to acknowledge committing acts involved in the conspiracy.

The sentencing hearing will resume Sept. 9.

During last week’s hearing, Alec Sou said, "Myself and my brother never threatened any workers."

Mollway told the Sous they need to say why they believe they are guilty, or they should withdraw their pleas. She gave them and their lawyers a chance to explain.

Alec Sou’s lawyer, Howard Luke, filed a response dated Friday saying his client heard a Thai recruiter tell the workers their contracts were "just a piece of paper." Alec Sou, president and general manager, did not do anything to correct that statement, Luke said.

Alec Sou also admitted he did not pay for the workers’ airfare to Hawaii in 2004 as required under their guest farmworker visas and that he knew their employment contracts were for a period longer than what was granted under their visas, according to the response.

Mike Sou, vice president and operations manager, knew Aloun Farms had not paid for the workers’ transportation to Hawaii as required by law, his lawyer, Eric Seitz, said in their response.

Mike Sou knew their visas were valid only for a few months and knew that the workers repeatedly were told they had to perform their jobs "up to his expectations, or else they would not be allowed to stay in Hawaii and likely would face severe economic consequences if they were required to return to Thailand before they had earned enough to pay off their indebtedness," the response said.

The Sous are hoping for probation, but under federal sentencing guidelines, Alec Sou faces 46 to 57 months in prison and Mike Sou faces 41 to 51 months.

Former Govs. John Waihee and Ben Cayetano were among scores who submitted letters to the judge in support of the brothers. But they and other community leaders last week were not in the courtroom, packed with Sous’ relatives and supporters, including Aloun Farm workers.


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