A $2.4 million settlement was announced Tuesday for hundreds of Thai workers who said they suffered through abuse, discrimination and a series of failed promises when they were brought to Hawaii for farm work.
Ten years ago, Kham Juan Namwichai and Likhit Yoo-on thought they'd found the chance to realize their dream.
"I thought I would be able to pay back the loan for a recruitment fee in a few months and send my daughters to school and build a better life for my family," Namwichai said.
Both men said Global Horizons recruited them and hundreds of others from Thailand to work on Hawaii farms. They were promised good pay, good benefits, and a chance to build a better life for their families.
But attorneys said instead that Global Horizons charged tens of thousands of dollars in recruitment fees, some with up to 50 percent interest.
Attorneys claim the company humiliated and abused the clients, denying them food, water, and clean housing.
"Some speak of using rubber bands and rocks to catch birds so they can eat," said Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regional attorney Anna Park.
"I was made to live in a crowded, bug-filled house where I had to share one bathroom with 26 other Thai workers," said Yoo-on.
Three years ago, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Global Horizons and six Hawaii farms on behalf of 500 Thai workers. The lawsuit claimed those farms not only knew what was going on, but contributed to the problem.
On Tuesday, four more farms agreed to a settlement.
Mac Farms will pay the most at $1.6 million; Kauai Coffee will pay $425,000; Oahu's Kelena Farms will pay $275,000; Captain Cook Coffee will pay $100,000.
In an earlier settlement, Del Monte agreed to pay out $1.2 million.
"I want to encourage others who experience what I experienced to seek help," Namwichai said.
Both Namwichai and Yoo-on said they've found better jobs.
Maui Pineapple has yet to pay. A trial for damages is set to begin in November. The same goes for Global Horizon.
The EEOC said it has not been able to go after the recruiting businesses in Thailand that helped Global Horizon find its workers.