FOUR L.A. CONTRACTORS SENTENCED
Byline: Kristi Ellis
LOS ANGELES — Four apparel contractors who pleaded guilty in November to charges of conspiracy and employing illegal aliens received sentences Tuesday ranging up to five months in prison.
Tawach Hirunpolkol, an owner of Good Line at 1643 North Indiana Ave., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Harry L. Hupp to five months’ imprisonment, while his business partner, Kiriya Hirunpolkol, an in-law, was sentenced to two months in a community confinement center and two months in electronically monitored home detention.
Bouaphanh Thammagno, an owner of Virgil Apparel at 3109 1/2 Beverly Blvd., was sentenced to three months in a community confinement center and three months in electronically monitored home detention, and his wife, Vanhivilay, was sentenced to two months in a community confinement center and two months in electronically monitored home detention.
The four were each fined $3,000 as well.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the four admitted employing illegal aliens at their own garment factories as well as to housing some of the aliens at their factories and transporting them to get false identification and employment authorization documents. The defendants admitted that they hired illegal aliens for long hours and meager wages over several years knowing they were unauthorized to work in the U.S., the authorities said.
The two owners of another contracting shop, hit in the same sweep in August, also pleaded guilty in November to similar charges and are to be sentenced Feb. 12. They are Apai Pinwatana and his wife, Sumran Ngernok, owners of ASC Fashion at 865 North Virgil Ave.
The three shops were raided in the wake of the August strike on a sewing shop in suburban El Monte, where Thai immigrant workers were said to be in indentured servitude and held against their will. Unlike the El Monte case, though, where the alleged owners pleaded not guilty and are awaiting a criminal trial scheduled for the end of February, the three shops in this case were registered in the state and there was no evidence of peonage. In the raids, the Immigration and Naturalization special agents took more than 70 people into custody, including 39 Thai nationals.
The U.S. Department of Labor is distributing more than $51,000 in collected back wages owed to some 180 employees of the three shops, according to William C. Buhl, San Francisco-based regional administrator for Labor.
Although Immigration and federal labor officials initially claimed that the owners of the three shops could also be linked to a Thai smuggling ring, which controlled the El Monte operation, the charges were never substantiated.