A 66-year-old Oxnard man was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Friday for smuggling hundreds of Mexican workers to a Somis flower ranch, where they were paid sub-minimum wages and claimed to have been kept as virtual slaves.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall also ordered Mauro Casares--who admitted charging each worker $435 for transportation and phony immigration documents--to pay $13,443 in restitution to the workers.
Casares, convicted of four felonies, pledged to surrender Jan. 4 to begin serving his sentence at an undetermined federal prison, prosecutors said.
The smuggler is the second of 11 defendants to be sentenced in the high-profile prosecution of ranch owner Edwin M. Ives, who is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
In September, Najuum Isaac, a ranch foreman for a short period in the 1980s, was sentenced to five years in prison. But Marshall suspended the sentence.
During a hearing in Los Angeles, Casares pleaded for probation, saying he thought he was helping the smuggled Mexican workers make a living. He also said he needed to provide for his two young children. Marshall said she had taken Casares advanced age into consideration in setting his sentence. But she also noted that workers were mistreated at the ranch, sometimes receiving nothing for their work after deductions for food and sundries, Assistant U.S. Atty. Alfredo X. Jarrin said.
Ives, who originally was charged with enslaving workers at his Somis compound, pleaded guilty in May to maintaining false records, harboring and transporting illegal immigrants and paying subminimum wages. He agreed to pay $1.5 million in back wages, the stiffest fine ever in an immigration case.
His farming company also admitted to nine crimes including racketeering, the first organized crime conviction in a federal civil rights case, prosecutors said. Ives faces up to 16 years in prison.