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Ventura County News Roundup

SOMIS : Sentencing Date Set for Flower Rancher

April 27, 1993|DARYL KELLY

After five more defense witnesses testified Monday, a federal judge in Los Angeles set July 26 to sentence a Ventura County flower rancher who was originally accused of enslaving laborers.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall said she will allow attorneys for Edwin M. Ives to call two more witnesses May 12, bringing to 11 the number of current or former employees who have testified at sentencing hearings that the rancher was a good employer.

"I went to heaven when I got there," Ramiro Madrigal, 50, a five-year employee, said Monday.

Madrigal said Ives helped him become a legal U.S. resident and gave him work so he could send money to his wife and seven children in Mexico.

Employee Ramon Jimenez said Ives was so good to him that the rancher once drove to Tijuana to pay a physician for repairing the worker's broken knee.

Three other witnesses--including a wife and cousin of ranch foremen also charged in the case--contradicted charges that workers were forced to live and work in squalid conditions for sub-minimum wages and could not leave until they paid smuggling fees.

Juan Cruz Perez, 22, said he was free to leave the compound and often joined Ives workers who had cars for nights out in Oxnard.

But Assistant U.S. Atty. Alfredo X. Jarrin said Monday's testimony only re-emphasized that Ives had two different types of workers--those who were relatively sophisticated or related to ranch foremen, and those who were poor and unsophisticated.

A July sentencing would follow by 14 months Ives' guilty plea to seven immigration and labor crimes and his agreement to pay $1.5 million in back wages. Ives, 56, faces up to 16 years in prison, but he could receive probation.

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