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Human trafficking case has Red River Valley connection

A federal indictment paints a man with ties to the Red River Valley as the muscle involved in a massive human-trafficking conspiracy linked to farm operations in Hawaii.

Shane Germann, 41, formerly of Hope and Valley City, N.D., is named as an onsite manager, regional supervisor and security guard for a California-based company whose officials are accused of luring about 400 Thai nationals into forced labor in the United States under threat of financial ruin.

Germann is among six men who face federal charges in Honolulu in connection with the conspiracy. For his alleged role, Germann faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 27 in Hawaii's U.S. District Court. Germann turned himself in Thursday in Fargo and was released on an undetermined amount of bond, according to the U.S. Marshal's Office in Fargo. No further details were available Tuesday.

According to the federal indictment:

Germann was following directions handed down by Mordechai Orian and Pranee Tubchumpol, the top two defendants listed in the case and Germann's direct supervisors at Los Angeles-based Global Horizons Manpower Inc.

Orian and Tubchumpol told Germann and others to confiscate Thai farm workers' passports and visas when they arrived in the United States in order "to restrict the workers' movement and prevent (them) from escaping."

Several unnamed Thai workers described their experiences being lured to the United States for work, only to find themselves indebted to Global Horizons officials and forced to work for low wages and in poor conditions.

In September 2005, Germann allegedly served as a 24-hour security guard for the Maui Pineapple Farm's housing units. In that capacity, he and defendant Sam Wongsesanit are said to have "strung yellow tape around the Maui Pineapple Farm housing and installed bells on string lines in the woods to alert the guards if a worker attempted to escape and to establish their control over the Thai (workers)."

Germann also is listed as among the defendants who threatened some of the workers with being sent back to Thailand if they complained about wages and working and housing conditions, or failed to fulfill their labor services.

According to background records, Germann lived in Hope from about 2005 until at least November 2009 and lived in a variety of residences in Valley City between 1992 and 2008.

Records show he also lived in Waipahu, Hawaii between October 2004 and March 2006 -- a time period that includes the months under investigation by federal prosecutors.