Mexican workers in Glenwood case win $54,400 settlement
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A federal judge ordered a Texas company accused of human trafficking to pay $54,400 to 68 Mexican workers who got stuck in Glenwood Springs.
The workers said they arrived legally with work visas in Glenwood Springs in November 2007, but never got work they were promised by JNS Construction Services LLC, of Texas. They had hoped to make some money for their families before Christmas.
Glenwood Springs attorney Don Kaufman filed the lawsuit free of charge on behalf of the workers, saying they deserved justice. He couldn’t be immediately reached Thursday.
The workers said they borrowed and spent significant amounts of money to travel from different places in Mexico for the promised work. The group, originally totaling more than 80, ended up in limbo at local hotels after not getting the promised jobs.
John Herzer, an owner of JNS, said previously he made a cash offer to the men and sent two buses to take them back to Mexico. On Dec. 21, 2007, most of the men rode the buses back to Mexico but about 10 stayed behind and ended up here illegally after their work visas expired.
The original legal complaint accused JNS of human trafficking. It said the workers were owed at least $910 each for a three-week period, totaling $177,450. The complaint said the defendants threatened the workers with retaliation from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to keep them in line.
“Isolated, disoriented, unable to speak English, and unfamiliar with their rights under American law, individual plaintiffs were exploited by defendants and felt powerless to escape,” the complaint said. “They were warehoused without an ability to object or leave.”
A U.S. Circuit Judge said in an April 3 order that a judgment is entered in favor of the workers and the defendants, JNS Construction and Leno Aseudo of Leno and Company LLC, are obligated to pay the workers $800 each totaling $54,400.
Leno Aseudo reportedly worked for JNS by contacting and organizing the workers.
A Kansas drywall company, Midwest Drywall, also became a plaintiff in the case. It said JNS filed a false document with the Department of Labor to obtain work visas. The document included a phony signature and was put on purported Midwest letterhead and represented that Midwest needed around 100 workers for a project near Vail, the company said, but Midwest never made such a representation.
The judge’s order adopted another judge’s recommendations, which included rejecting Kaufman’s request for an award of attorney’s fees. The request was based on allegations JNS and Leno Aseudo acted in bad faith by failing to comply with a settlement agreement.
It wasn’t immediately clear if JNS has paid the settlement. In a court document in October, Kaufman asked the judge to enforce the settlement and said court dates were delayed as the defendants didn’t pay the settlement on time. An attorney for JNS owner John Herzer said in September that Herzer was “having problems obtaining the financing to make the agreed upon settlement payment,” Kaufman’s motion says.
“At worst the defendants are intentionally taking advantage of the extreme poverty of the plaintiffs by abusing the judicial process and the fairness of the court, at best they are in default of a binding settlement agreement of this court,” Kaufman’s Oct. 2 motion says.
The case was to be dismissed within 20 days of the April 3 order.
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