(CBS/AP) SANTA ANA, Calif. – A 30-year-old domestic worker from Kenya flagged down a Southern California bus Tuesday, and told a passenger she had been held against her will and believed she was a victim of human trafficking.
It turns out California is a good place to be, if you’re being held against your will by an employer who isn’t honoring the original contract.
“It’s been 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and slavery has been unlawful in the United States, and certainly in California, all this time, and it’s disappointing to see it in use here,” said Rackauckas, who had requested that Alayban’s bail be set at $20 million.
Defense attorney Paul Meyer declined comment on the case but previously said it was just a dispute over domestic work hours.
Alayban is forbidden to have contact with the alleged victim, cannot leave Orange County without permission from the court, and had to turn over her passport.
The Kenyan woman said her passport was taken from her when she left her country to work for Alayban, hoping to make enough money to cover her ailing 7-year-old daughter’s medical bills.
The 30-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, alleges she was forced to work long hours and was paid only a fraction of what she was promised.
Authorities said it wasn’t until she traveled with the Saudi family on their vacation to the United States that she was able to escape, flag down a bus, and call police, authorities said.
When police searched the condo, they found four other workers, from the Philippines. The women left voluntarily with officers and told them they were interested in being free, police said. No charges have been filed related to those women and police said there were no signs any of the workers had been physically abused.
The women’s passports had been held with the victim’s documents in a safe deposit box, Rackauckas said.
The case is the first labor trafficking case prosecuted in Orange County since voters approved a law last year to stiffen the penalties for the crime. If convicted, Alayban faces a maximum sentence of 12 years, which is double the sentence she could have received a year ago, Rackauckas said.
The Saudi royal family is extensive, with thousands of princes and princesses, including some who have run into trouble with the law.
In 2002, Saudi princess Buniah al-Saud, who was accused of pushing her maid down a flight of stairs, entered a no-contest plea in Florida and was fined $1,000. In 1995, another Saudi princess, Maha Al-Sudairi, allegedly beat a servant in front of sheriff’s deputies providing off-duty security. No charges were ever filed.
At what point does a “contract dispute” become “slavery”?
This case may give us a chance to clarify that particular boundary.
“My client was a slave to this woman,” said Steve Barick, a lawyer for the accuser.”She wasn’t able to freely move about. She had her ability to move in and about the country taken away. She was intimidated. She was promised one thing when she was in another country and when she was brought here that was changed. She was overworked. She was underpaid.”
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas described the accuser’s situation as “an example of forced labour.”