Monday, July 12, 2010

Star One Staffing Accused of Human Trafficking

"Agency Accused of Human Trafficking"

"WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - Thirteen Filipinos say the staffing agency that brought them to the United States forced them to work for virtually nothing under constant threat of deportation. After deducting for "severely overcrowded" housing and expenses, one worker says Star One Staffing paid her $1.50 for a month's work - and reprimanded her for eating noodles without permission.

Miami-based Star One treated the Filipino workers like indentured servants while they lived in its cramped dorms in Miami and New York, according to the federal complaint.

The workers claim Star One routinely threatened to have their visas revoked if they left the dorms without authorization.

Star One and its staff "also held critical immigration documents of some plaintiffs, deliberately increasing their sense of powerlessness to leave," according to the 72-page complaint.

The workers say Star One president Mary Jane Hague recruited 10 of them from their homes in the Philippines in the fall of 2006, promising them jobs at Miami-area country clubs.

Hague's husband at the time, nonparty Andrew Hague, a judge in Florida's 11th Circuit Court, went along on the recruiting trips and lent a sense of legitimacy to Star One's operation, the complaint states.

The workers say that after arriving in America under Star One's wing, they found that the agency's promises to pay them a fair wage and expedite their U.S. permanent resident status were empty.

Star One herded them into crowded homes "in which up to 40 workers resided," in one case, with almost 20 workers sleeping in a single room, according to the complaint...

Mary Hague told Courthouse News in a telephone interview that she had not been served and could not respond to the allegations before reading the complaint.

Her company has been sued in Federal Court at least three times in the past 10 years, accused of failing to pay overtime wages, court records show...

While these previous cases against Star One include accusations of minimum wage violations and illegal paycheck deductions, the human rights abuses alleged in the Florida suit set it apart.

The defendants in Florida are Star One International Staffing, Star One Staffing International, Roberto Villanueva, Lina Fernandez, Mary Jane Hague, John Carruthers, and Ruth Carruthers.

The plaintiffs seek damages for human trafficking, forced labor, fraud, unjust enrichment, racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud, immigration document fraud, and labor law violations. They are represented by Gregory Schell with Florida Legal Services of Lake Worth."

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Read the complaint:

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