SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Saudi princess was charged Wednesday with human trafficking for allegedly holding a domestic worker against her will and forcing her to work at an Orange County condominium, prosecutors said.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas identified 42-year-old Meshael Alayban as a Saudi princess who was charged with one count of human trafficking. If convicted, she faces up to 12 years in prison.
Alayban was arrested after a Kenyan woman carrying a suitcase flagged down a bus Tuesday and told a passenger she believed she was a human trafficking victim. The passenger helped her contact police, who searched the Irvine condo where Alayban and her family were staying, authorities said.
The 30-year-old woman told authorities she was hired in Kenya in 2012 and her passport was taken from her on arrival in Saudi Arabia. She was forced to work excessive hours and was paid less than she was promised and not allowed to leave, authorities said.
“This is not a contract dispute,” Rackauckas told the court during a bail hearing Wednesday afternoon, likening the case to slavery. “This is holding someone captive against their will.”
An Orange County judge set bail at $5 million for Alayban and required her to submit to GPS monitoring. He also banned her from leaving the county without prior authorization.
Alayban did not appear in court in Santa Ana. Her attorney, Paul Meyer, said the case was a contractual dispute and argued his client shouldn’t be assigned a ransomlike bail solely because she was rich. He said she had been traveling to the U.S. since she was a child, owned properties here and had given her word she would address the allegations.
“This is a domestic work hours dispute,” he said.
Rackauckas had asked the judge to deny bail for Alayban or set it at $20 million, saying it was unlikely any amount would guarantee a Saudi princess would show up in court. He said the Saudi consulate had already offered to cover $1 million in bail initially set after her arrest.
Police say Alayban’s family traveled to the U.S. in May with the victim and four women from the Philippines.
The victim had signed a two-year contract with an employment agency guaranteeing she would be paid $1,600 a month to work eight hours a day, five days a week. But starting in March 2012, she was forced to cook, clean and do other household chores for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and was paid only $220, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say the victim’s passport was taken from her, and she wasn’t allowed to return to Kenya. In May, she was brought to the U.S. and given her passport only to pass through customs, the district attorney’s office said.
Once here, she was forced to tend to at least eight people in four apartments in the same Irvine complex, washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and ironing, the office said.
The other four women left the home voluntarily with police once authorities arrived. They told police they were interested in being free, said Irvine police chief David Maggard Jr.
No charges have been filed in connection with their circumstances.
Police said there are no indications of physical abuse.
It is the first forced labor case brought in Orange County under a human trafficking ballot initiative passed last year by California voters, and it is being investigated by local police and federal immigration authorities.
Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s homeland security investigations in Los Angeles, said he hoped the case would encourage other trafficking victims to trust in law enforcement.
Alayban is set to be arraigned in court Thursday. She is one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the district attorney’s office said.
SACRAMENTO-The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crimes Against Children Unit and its state and local law enforcement partners are pleased to announce the recovery of six children who were being victimized as prostitutes in the Chico, Redding, Sacramento, and Vallejo areas.
The number of minors recovered locally is one of the highest in the nation, making this local achievement one of Operation Cross Country VI’s top success stories.
The Sacramento Division of the FBI and multiple local and state law enforcement participated in the operation from June 19 through June 23, 2012. In addition to six juveniles recovered in Sacramento, multi-agency teams also arrested six pimps during the three-day operation. The local efforts account for nearly eight percent of the children rescued during Operation Cross Country VI.
In addition to the FBI Sacramento Division, the following agencies participated in last week’s local operation:
- Butte County District Attorney
- California Highway Patrol
- California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control
- Chico Police Department
- Redding Police Department
- Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department
- Sacramento Police Department
- Vallejo Police Department
Operation Cross Country is a multi-day, national enforcement action targeting the domestic sex trafficking of children. The operation is coordinated by the Innocence Lost initiative and is a partnership between the FBI, state and local law enforcement partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since the first Operation Cross County in June 2008, multi-agency teams in the Sacramento Division’s area of responsibility have recovered 23 children and arrested 18 pimps.
Nationwide, 226 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in 57 cities participated in Operation Cross County VI, resulting in the rescue of 79 children and arrests of 104 pimps. There are 47 task forces and working groups throughout the country addressing the issue of child sex trafficking.
Area Jewish congregations are focusing on human trafficking in the region as they prepare for the Passover season, the annual commemoration of the ancient Hebrews’ exodus from Egyptian bondage.
Because of the region’s freeway network and reliance on migrant labor, Sacramento is considered a hub of the illegal activity. Human traffickers typically target women and children, exploiting them for commercial sex or labor purposes, organizers say.
The National Council of Jewish Women, Sacramento, is presenting a free educational forum on human trafficking, from 7 to 9 p.m. April 23 at KOH Library and Cultural Center, 2300 Sierra Blvd. Featured speakers will include a human-trafficking expert, an FBI special agent and local providers of services to survivors.
BY NOEL RANDEWICH, REUTERS JANUARY 2, 2012
A new California law will force retailers and manufacturers to disclose how they guard against slavery and human trafficking throughout their supply chains, ratcheting up scrutiny of some of the largest U.S. corporations.
Beginning today, about 3,200 major companies doing business or based in California, a list that includes Apple and Gap Inc., will be required to disclose steps they take, if any, to ensure their suppliers and partners do not use forced labour.
Companies risk getting sued by the state attorney general if they flout that law. But experts say the real pressure will come from the court of public opinion: consumers who care about ethical working conditions and take an interest in how their favourite brands get made.
Apple has already come under fire. Suicides at supplier Foxconn, which makes the iconic iPhone, raised questions about working conditions at plants in southern China.
Apple declined to comment on the new legislation.
The heightened scrutiny expected under the law, which applies to retailers and manufacturers in the state with more than $100 million in global sales, is already spurring companies to take a closer look at practices they follow, and in some cases improve them, lawyers say.
“It’s a law that makes sure that companies who are aware of the issues, but could be managing them better, come to the realization that this is the moment where they better get a better handle on them,” said Jon Sohn, a lawyer at McKenna, Long and Aldridge in Washington. “Anything that can harm your brand should be taken seriously.”
Child labour and slavery, broadly defined as forced labour, run rampant not just in emerging markets like Asia and Latin America, but also within developed economies such as the United States.
The U.S. Department of Labor says children and forced labourers produce 130 kinds of goods in 71 countries, numbers that have probably increased during the economic crisis.
More than 12 million people are victims of forced labour, the International Labor Organization says.
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, a group that helps human-trafficking victims in Los Angeles – often people working in restaurants and the beauty trade – cosponsored the legislation and wants consumers to reward companies that do the most to prevent forced labour.
“Companies following the policy and going beyond what is required should be congratulated,” said Stephanie Richard, the coalition’s policy director. “We encourage people to support companies that utilize this law to re-examine their supply chains.”
Justin Dillon, head of advocacy group slaveryfootprint. org, points to Apple and Gap as companies that have made major efforts to improve and communicate their policies following labour issues at their foreign suppliers .
The suicides at the plants associated with Apple cast a harsh spotlight on what critics dubbed a militaristic culture, pushing workers to the brink to meet unceasing demand for the company’s iPhones.
In response, Apple stepped up the number of supplier facilities it audits, to ensure they meet its code of conduct. Apple has also trained more workers in its supply chain about their rights under the Apple code of conduct.
Gap, whose apparel brands include The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, over the past decade has been accused of benefiting from sweatshops and child labour in Saipan and India.
Anxious to preserve its corporate image, Gap has yanked clothing allegedly manufactured by children from its stores and stepped up monitoring of factories in its supply chain to make sure migrant workers are not forced to hand over their passports to managers or are otherwise coerced.
“What the bill does is beg the question,” Dillon said. “That’s great that that’s what you’re doing, but what more are you going to do?”
Ahead of the new law, expected to largely affect the electronics and clothing industries, Silicon Valley companies including Intel and Agilent Technologies have posted documents on the Internet detailing their policies.
Intel said third-party audits of key suppliers cover slavery, but not human trafficking.
But it plans to specifically address human trafficking early next year.
A drive to slash costs has quickened in tandem with global trade and industry competition in past decades. Increasingly complex supply chains that criss-cross the world make it harder for executives to scrutinize all the companies that have a hand in producing their products.
Under the new law, companies are required to describe the extent to which they verify risks of human trafficking and conduct independent and surprise audits of their suppliers.
They also have to disclose whether they force suppliers to certify the materials they use comply with laws regarding human trafficking and slavery, and whether employees receive training to reduce the risk of slavery.
Keith Bishop, a partner at law firm Allen Matkins, said he advised companies directly affected by the new law, and then received a second wave of inquiries from many of those companies’ suppliers.
They wanted to know what measures to take to meet their customers’ requirements.
“The act, rather ingeniously, specifically regulates relatively few companies, but impacts a very large number of companies,” Bishop said.
The Sacramento Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is pleased to announce that WEAVE, Inc. is the recipient of the 2011 Director’s Community Leadership Award. The annual award recognizes the achievement of an individual or organization for commitment to violence education and prevention.
“It is an honor to be able to present WEAVE, Inc. with the Director’s Community Leadership Award for commitment to crisis intervention and prevention in our region,” said Herb Brown, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Sacramento FBI field office. “Beth Hassett and her team’s outstanding efforts have continually increased the community’s understanding of domestic violence and sexual assault and have ensured that victims have resources available to begin the healing process.”
Since opening as a grassroots organization in 1978, WEAVE has become a large, nationally recognized agency that provides crisis intervention and prevention services to women, men and children who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in the Sacramento region. Focused on eliminating the cycle of violence and abuse, WEAVE dedicates significant resources to prevention and education programs in addition to essential victims services. In 2011, WEAVE realized the following successes:
- 197 women and 168 children found refuge at the safe house for an average of 27 days each
- 15,865 callers received help from the 24-hour support line
- 1,006 women and men received counseling
- 57 children received therapy to break the cycle of violence
- 1,404 victims received legal services
- 212 rape victims were accompanied at the hospital during evidence collection.
“I am honored that WEAVE has been chosen as the Sacramento area recipient of the Director’s Community Leadership Award. WEAVE believes that all women, men, and children deserve to feel safe in their homes and community,” said Beth Hassett, executive director of WEAVE. “In these difficult times we have to be more innovative, more enthusiastic and more committed to making sure that the most vulnerable among us are taken care of. The award represents our continued efforts to create a cohesive response to victims and accountability for perpetrators.”
For more than two decades, Beth Hassett, executive director of WEAVE, has been a volunteer and staff member for non-profit organizations focused on improving the quality of life in the Sacramento region and beyond. As the executive director of WEAVE, Hassett leads a team of advocates, counselors, educators, and volunteers who share the common goal of bringing an end to domestic violence and sexual assault in the community.
In addition to her position with WEAVE, Hassett currently serves as a commissioner on the First Five Sacramento Commission, president of the Planned Giving Forum of Sacramento, treasurer of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), vice president of the Midtown Business Association, secretary of the Sacramento Children’s Coalition, and is a member of both the ALS Association National Board of Representatives and the board of the ALS Association of Greater Sacramento. She was appointed to the statewide Domestic Violence Advisory Council by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2010 and graduated from the Sacramento FBI Citizens Academy in 2011.
Hassett will accept the 2011 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award on behalf of WEAVE, Inc. from SAC Brown during a small ceremony held at the Sacramento field office at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, November 30, 2011. Hassett will also travel to FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C. to receive the official engraved crystal award from FBI Director Robert Mueller on March 16, 2012, at a public ceremony.
Established in 1978, WEAVE provides crisis intervention and prevention services to women, men, and children in Sacramento County who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking. Key programs include a safehouse for women and children, a sexual assault response team, a 24-hour support and information line, counseling, legal services, and prevention education for youth and adults.
Gina Swankie, (916) 214-8309
Police: Suspects Face Human Trafficking, Pimping Charges
SAN FRANCISCO — A Sacramento couple was arrested Saturday at a South San Francisco hotel on suspicion of forcing three teenage girls into prostitution, police said.
Officers went to a hotel in the 300 block of South Airport Boulevard on a tip that a runaway girl had been seen near the property at about 4 p.m., according to South San Francisco police.
When they arrived at the scene, officers said they found a 19-year-old woman and two juvenile girls in a room at the hotel.
The room was registered to 40-year-old Mahendar Singh, who was found in another room at the hotel, police said.
Singh and the three girls were taken into custody after police said they found evidence of prostitution in both hotel rooms.
During questioning, all three girls said they were being forced into prostitution by Singh and his wife, Helen, 22, of Sacramento, police said.
Helen Singh was found at the hotel and arrested along with her husband, police said.
Mahendar and Helen Singh were booked into San Mateo County Jail on charges of human trafficking under the age of 18, pimping, pandering and conspiracy.
The three girls were released to their parents, police said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press