[Stop-traffic] News/US: Rancher charged after foreign workers complain of mistreatment

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/US: Rancher charged after foreign workers complain of mistreatment
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Nov 13 2000 - 09:38:47 EST

Rancher charged after foreign workers complain of mistreatment
The Associated Press, November 27, 2000

CRAIG, Colo. (AP) -- A Moffat County sheep rancher and his two sons
have been charged with mistreating their foreign employees after the
workers complained they were beaten and ill-fed.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed civil charges against John
Peroulis and his two sons, Louis and Stan, on allegations that they
abused Peruvian sheepherders.

The Peroulis family denies the charges. Their lawyer, Jeff Pagliuca
of Denver, said many allegations, including those of beatings, were
based on complaints that never led to criminal charges.

"It certainly is an unfair approach to use those unfounded
allegations in this forum," Pagliuca said. "My experience in law
enforcement is if there's a crime, they prosecute it."

If the case goes to trial, the family could lose its right to hire
foreign workers under the H-2A visa program, said Richard Habera,
district director in Denver for the Labor Department's Wage and Hour
Division. The H-2A program allows non-U.S. citizens to fill specific
agricultural jobs so long as farmers show they can't fill the jobs
with U.S. citizens.

The family is currently allowed to hire eight H-2A workers to herd
sheep for about dlrs 650 a month, court documents say. The employees
live on the ranch, which has sheep camps from Craig to Baggs, Wyo.

The Labor Department alleged the Peroulises violated H-2A program
rules by not giving the workers enough food, withholding wages and
discouraging workers from cooperating with investigations.

Det. K.C. Hume at the Moffat County Sheriff's Department said herders
had complained of mistreatment at the ranch for years but that no
criminal charges were ever filed.

According to court documents, herders complained of not getting
enough to eat or not being allowed to eat during the day. One herder
alleged in 1997 that Louis Peroulis beat him in the chest and head
when he mistakenly branded animals belonging to another ranch,
according to Moffat County Sheriff's Department records. The
department report said investigators never found evidence of any

The department also alleged that the family broke H-2A rules by
forcing the workers to pay for equipment they needed for work and not
reimbursing their travel expenses or giving them enough water for
bathing or cooking.

Pagliuca said the case has not been scheduled, and the Peroulises
want to avoid a trial. The charges were filed in U.S. District Court
in Denver on Sept. 25.

Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

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