[Hpn] Florida grower used homeless for slave labor. Enforcer sentenced. (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 15 Jul 2001 12:48:09 -0700 (PDT)


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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - July 11 2001

MAN INVOLVED IN SLAVE LABOR RING SENTENCED IN WEST PALM BEACH

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A man who helped force a black
employee to work in Fort Pierce-area orange groves was sentenced
Wednesday to four years and seven months in prison, prosecutors
said.

William Smith was also ordered by a federal judge to serve a
three years of supervised release. Smith pleaded guilty in May to
one count of conspiracy to commit involuntary servitude.

Justice Department officials said in a statement that Smith
served as an enforcer for Michael Allen Lee, who pleaded guilty in
February to using loans, crack cocaine, threats and violence
against George Williams.

Smith admitted helping Lee abduct and beat Williams, the
statement said.

It was the fourth such prosecution in South Florida during the
last three years, prosecutors said.

Lee recruited homeless and drug-addicted men to work in citrus
groves, prosecutors said. He would then lend them money for rent,
food, cigarettes and cocaine in amounts that he knew they could not
repay.

He would then use that debt, threats and violence to keep
employees from leaving his work crew.

In early 1997, Williams left. Lee tracked him to a Fort Pierce
apartment, forced him into his truck and drove him to a house,
where he beat Williams in front of other members of his crew.

Lee told Williams not to leave, but several hours later he fled
and reported the beating to police.

Lee is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 24.

AP-ES-07-11-01 2255EDT
Received  Id 728373240 on Jul 11 2001 21:57

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