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SPECIAL REPORT PART 1a: Otero family attorney calls federal civil lawsuit a family feud

Attorney Says Her Rockport Clients Have Been Threatened with Losing Their Business and House
Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 04:40:40-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We continue our special report on a federal civil lawsuit filed against a Rockport business by a former employee, who also happens to be part of the business owner's family.

The suit alleges human trafficking, forced labor, and peonage.

We'll hear from both sides again tonight, but first, the attorney sat down with Andy Liscano.

"It is my opinion that this entire controversy, in many ways, is an attempt to harass, bully, and essentially get out of Rockport a family with 4 small children," the Oteros lawyer, Andrea Johnson, said.

Johnson is Matthew and Sopheak Otero's Houston-based attorney.

The Oteros own Rockport Donuts, and are the defendants in this lawsuit.

"Just because a pleading is filed at court, does not make it the truth," she told Action 10 News on Wednesday.

She calls the suit a "family feud," because Sophy Treadway, who filed the suit, is Sopheak Otero niece.

They both grew up in Cambodia, and the Oteros brought Treadway and her aunt to the U.S. to start a new, and better, life.

In fact, Treadway and her husband live maybe two blocks away from the Oteros in Rockport.

After seeing our special report that aired Monday, Johnson asked for an opportunty to respond, particularly to comments made by Treadway's attorney.

"People can throw around words like slavery, and so on," Johnson said. "They're buzzwords. They catch our attention. I can tell you that it is not the truth."

The suit alleges that Treadway and her aunt worked long hours for the Oteros both in Cambodia, and at the donut shop, for little pay.

"I actually believe it was $100s of more dollars, each, and every month that they effectively got their room and board, medical care, clothing, entertainment," she said. " Trips around Texas and wherever. All of that was paid for by the Oteros."

Johnson wants the public to know that her clients are modest, hard-working people, who value family above all else.

And they look forward to their day in court in October.

"The Oteros affirmitively, strongly deny the accusations being made," Johnson said. "Our truth will come out at the courthouse. It'll be based on facts. It will not be based on slogans."