They were sold a dream: working in New Zealand and earning almost seven times their weekly wages in Fiji.
But, upon arrival into Auckland the false promises quickly unravelled.
Some of the workers were sent to kiwifruit orchards in Tauranga where they were forced to work illegally for long hours, sleep on the floor of overcrowded basements and were paid little, if anything.
Faroz Ali, 46, was the mastermind behind an elaborate human trafficking scam that enticed and exploited Fijian workers in New Zealand and was today convicted after a three -week trial in the High Court at Auckland.
Ali was found guilty of 15 people trafficking charges and guilty of 15 charges for aiding and abetting a person to unlawfully enter New Zealand. He was also found guilty of one charge for aiding and abetting a person to remain unlawfully in New Zealand.
At the beginning of the trial, Ali, a Fijian national with New Zealand residency, pleaded guilty to 26 charges of helping people breach their visa conditions and not paying his employees the minimum wage.
The 15 Fijian workers who fell victim to the scam were lured to New Zealand on the promise of $900 per week picking fruit.
They sold their family cows and borrowed thousands of dollars from their villages for the chance to work in high-paying jobs in New Zealand and give their families a better life.
They returned home empty-pocketed and ashamed.
This result marks the first successful trafficking prosecution in New Zealand history.
One of the lead investigators, Carl Knight, travelled to Fiji a number of times and said many of the exploited workers lived in primitive conditions; some were from villages with only one tap with running water.
"They will never have the ability to pay this money back," he said.
The workers were enticed to New Zealand by advertisements in the Fiji Sun newspaper touting high-paying employment that were placed by travel agencies run by Ali's wife and her twin sister. Workers were then charged up to $4000 each for administration fees, work visas, flights, accommodation and food expenses.