Dairy official says he hasn't seen human trafficking lawsuit

BOISE, Idaho — The manager of an Idaho dairy named in a human trafficking lawsuit declined to comment on the allegations Thursday, saying they hadn't yet been notified of the legal action.

Six Mexican veterinarians filed the lawsuit against Funk Dairy Inc. in Boise's U.S. District Court earlier this week, contending they were recruited to work at the southern Idaho facility as animal scientists, but instead were forced to work as general laborers for about a year.

"As of right now we've not been notified of any lawsuit against Funk Dairy," said dairy manager Curtis Giles. "We care about our employees and make sure they're being taken care of in all aspects of their employment."

Giles is one of the named defendants, along with dairy owner David Funk and immigration attorney Jeremy Pittard. Earlier this week, Pittard said his only involvement in the case was to help arrange visas at the request of the dairy. Pittard declined comment on the working conditions at the dairy because he didn't visit it, but said the business had a good reputation in the area.

The lawsuit claims the veterinarians were illegally forced to work as general laborers despite having professional worker visas, received substandard housing and lower wages than promised and were threatened with deportation if they did not do their assigned work well. They are seeking unspecified monetary damages under federal laws to fight human trafficking and target criminal conspiracies.

Veterinarians Cesar Martinez-Rodriguez, Dalia Padilla-Lopez, Mayra Munoz-Lara, Brenda Gastelum-Sierra, Leslie Ortiz-Garcia and Ricardo Neri-Camacho also claimed in the lawsuit that their employers exploited their fear, inability to speak English, and unfamiliarity with the American legal system to force them to stay at the dairy from 2014 to 2015.

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