CALIFORNIA IN BRIEF : SOMIS : 8 at Ranch Accused Under Slavery Law
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles charged a Somis flower rancher, six foremen and an alleged smuggler with enslaving more than 100 Mexican laborers, forcing them to work for sub-minimum wages and selling them food and sundries at inflated prices from a company store. The defendants, including Edwin M. Ives, 54, owner of the ranch in Ventura County, face up to 52 years in prison and $2 million in fines if convicted, according to federal prosecutors. All eight defendants are charged with violating a variety of labor and civil rights laws, including a federal criminal anti-slavery statute, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Carol Gillam. She said the indictments represent only the second time the 81-year-old law has been used in Southern California. “This is a very significant case that involves very serious violations of people’s human rights,” Gillam said.