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Lawsuit alleges forced labor on illicit marijuana farm on Navajo Nation

A lawsuit in New Mexico alleges a prominent Navajo businessman conspired with a Southern California entrepreneur to lure Chinese immigrants to an illicit marijuana operation, kept them from leaving and never paid them. 

The group of Chinese immigrants are suing over forced labor and human trafficking allegations.

The suit states the workers were lured to New Mexico and forced to work 14 hour days trimming marijuana at a motel.

The plaintiffs say they were never paid. The suit names Dineh Benally, who was sued in 2020 by the Navajo Nation for running the operation.

Law enforcement ultimately destroyed a quarter million marijuana plants. The current lawsuit doesn’t specify damages.

Benally previously ran for president of the Navajo Nation.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.