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Ex-North Dakota man linked to Hawaii human trafficking conspiracy

HONOLULU - A man with ties to the Red River Valley pleaded guilty this week to a federal charge in connection with a massive human trafficking conspiracy in Hawaii.

As part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Shane Germann admitted to holding Thai nationals in a condition of document servitude.

Germann, 42, is formerly of Valley City and Hope, N.D. He was among eight people charged in the case.

Court documents name Germann as an onsite manager and supervisor for a California-based company, whose officials are accused of luring about 400 Thai nationals into forced labor in the United States under threat of financial ruin.

Between May 2003 and February 2006, Germann worked for Global Horizons Manpower Inc. and said he'd been following directions handed down by his immediate supervisors, both of whom are also charged in the conspiracy.

Germann confiscated the Thai nationals' passports when they arrived in Hawaii in order to prevent them from leaving and to ensure they'd continue working on the farms the company oversaw there.

In 2005, Germann also served as a security guard for the Maui Pineapple Farm's housing units, where he secured the perimeter to prevent the Thai nationals from running away.

Germann faces up to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of no more than $250,000.

A sentencing hearing has been set for Aug. 22 in Hawaii's U.S. District Court.

As part of the plea agreement, the remaining six counts against Germann are expected to be dismissed at that hearing.