Immigration & Labor

Investigative Fund story led to largest human trafficking indictment in US history

Credit: THE INVESTIGATIVE FUND

It's been a terrific period for The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, now known as Type Investigations. Our muckraking reporters have been chasing leads across continents and following important stories over many months, even years, with impressive payoff. They've interviewed the victims of racial violence in New Orleans, military interrogators in Iraq, and water-starved residents of Fiji to bring you the stories that no one else is telling.

We're writing now to ask you to support this important work as we launch our annual fund drive. While others sound the alarm about the crisis in journalism, The Investigative Fund has quietly built a lean, effective model for incubating major investigations and placing them in media outlets across the country. Please donate to The Investigative Fund today.

Take Investigative Fund reporter John Bowe. As far back as 2008, he began to hear about a Los Angeles company, Global Horizons, that was ruthlessly exploiting workers it had recruited from Thailand. With our help, Bowe followed these tips to the tiny Thai hamlet of Banh Santicome, where he spoke with some 40 victims and family members. He tracked the story to a pineapple factory in Maui and agricultural fields in Utah.

Bowe found that Global Horizons charged Thai farmers $10,000 to $20,000 apiece, with interest, for job placement in the United States. Workers went into debt to pay the fees, only to arrive in remote locations for sporadic work that didn't even cover their loan payments.

Bowe's two-year investigation was published in Mother Jones and helped trigger the largest human trafficking indictment in US history, with Orian and several co-conspirators charged with “conspiracy to commit forced labor.” Orian now faces up to 70 years in prison. The indictments were covered in major outlets from the New York Times to CNN. Thai community advocates called it “a major, major victory.”

But investigating an international racket like Orian's doesn't come cheap. You can make important stories like this possible by donating to The Investigative Fund today.

Consider these other recent high-impact Investigative Fund projects:

  • Veteran reporter Lucy Komisar, in In These Times, exposed how global food services provider Sodexo, which runs cafeterias for schools, hospitals, and even military facilities, got massive kickbacks from food suppliers. The New York Attorney General's office saw the article and launched a major investigation, resulting in a $20 million settlement against Sodexo, achieved on the strength of testimony from whistleblowers who first went public in Komisar's piece.
  • Joshua Kors, who has been reporting for years with Investigative Fund support on the US military cheating veterans with PTSD or brain injuries out of their benefits, produced several Nation cover stories that attracted national attention. The latest one highlighted the case of Sergeant Chuck Luther, who survived a mortar shell attack only to be told by Army doctors that his physical symptoms were fake. Then he was punished instead of treated. In September, Luther and Kors both gave testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

None of these important stories would have come to light had it not been for The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund. To support other stories like these, please donate generously to our fund drive today.

About the reporter

Esther Kaplan

Esther Kaplan

Esther Kaplan is a radio and print journalist and editor of the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. She has written for The Nation, The American Prospect, In These Times, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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