Countywide : 2 More Plead Guilty in Ranch Slave Case

Two more foremen at a Ventura County flower ranch, where Mexican workers were allegedly enslaved during the 1980s, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony immigration charges Friday, bringing to seven the number of defendants in the case who have admitted to crimes.

Alvaro Ruiz and Jose Sandoval, who helped run the Somis and Moorpark ranches of Edwin M. Ives in the 1980s, entered pleas before U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall in Los Angeles. Ruiz faces up to 12 1/2 years in prison and Sandoval up to 10 years.

Former Ives employee Hector Hernandez also pleaded guilty Friday to witness tampering and faces a possible 10-year sentence.

Four other defendants--David Pinzon, Mauro Casares, Najuum Isaac and Rony Havive--entered guilty pleas during the last 10 days. And ranch foreman Parmjit Singh is expected to plead guilty Wednesday.

Marshall reset to next Friday the change of plea for Ives, 55, his farming corporation and ranch manager Pedro Pinzon. Ives has agreed to plead guilty to corporate racketeering and to pay $1.5 million in back wages to 300 former workers, the stiffest fine ever in a U.S. immigration case. Ives and his company will plead guilty to 16 criminal counts, including eight felonies, officials said. He faces up to 18 years in prison.

Together, the 11 defendants will admit to 50 criminal charges, including 26 felonies, nearly all involving immigration and labor allegations, prosecutors said.

Ives' change of plea--now delayed twice--was caused by the entry of Ives' tax attorneys into the case, Assistant U.S. Atty. Alfredo Jarrin said. Jarrin said he did not know what tax considerations Ives may have. But he said that criminal restitution is not tax deductible.

Ives' attorneys could not be reached for comment.

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