Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — Finally reaping some of the benefits from their labor in an El Monte sweatshop, 109 workers — 72 of whom had been held in conditions approaching slavery — received $1.1 million in back wages Friday.
The payment, distributed by the California Department of Industrial Relations, ranged from $37,488 for one worker to $64 for others. It came from assets seized from the operators of the illegal garment manufacturing ring during a much-publicized predawn raid on Aug. 2.
Many of the workers inside the apartment complex told state authorities they had been held against their will for up to seven years.
“This has been the most notable and one of the most complex cases we have ever undertaken,” Lloyd W. Aubry Jr., director of the Department of Industrial Relations, said at a press conference on Friday. “When the California Labor commissioner exposed this operation last summer, and as elements of the case began to unfold, the entire nation watched in disbelief that it could have happened at all.”
Of the total, $861,075 came from U.S. and foreign currency confiscated from the El Monte operators; $10,945 in interest paid on the confiscated currency, and $213,500 from garment manufacturers who had contracted with the operators and were held jointly liable under state law because the El Monte operations were not registered at the time.

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