US family accused of exploiting Dominicans
A family in Foley, Minnesota who owned a vegetable farm have been accused of conspiring to bring in workers with false papers from the Dominican Republic, forcing them to pay them for the privilege of working and threatening them to keep silent.
The workers were recruited from the area around Navarette by Wilian Cabrera of Cleveland, Ohio to work at the farm, which was run by John and Julie Svihel. They then lived in a dormitory on the farm growing sweet corn, berries and a wide range of vegetables about 20 miles northeast of St. Cloud. Federal authorities estimate that Cabrera collected around US$90,000 in illegal kickbacks from the workers who said that if they complained they were sent home.
Cabrera has been in the Sherburne County jail since May 26 and although he declares he is innocent, federal agents say that the workers were not only working illegally but they felt threatened by John Svihel and Wilian Cabrera and that they were told if they did not pay fees to Cabrera for their illegal papers that he would take their homes in the Dominican Republic.
The government alleges that the Svihels and Cabrera conspired to violate the visa process by forcing the laborers to pay cash kickbacks at the end of the season to offset their wages and repay their transportation costs even though Svihel signed visa application documents for the workers acknowledging he had to pay their travel costs between the farm and the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless the workers told federal agents that they had to pay and the State Department estimates that Svihel received US$170,100 in improper travel payments, and US$77,221 in kickbacks by reducing worker pay from the prevailing wage to US$10 an hour.
Source: DR1, startribune
Sep 16, 2015
Category: DR News |