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Princess Charged With Human Trafficking A No Show At Hearing

Princess Charged With Human Trafficking A No Show At Hearing

SANTA ANA (CNS) - Attorneys for a Saudi princess said today the  housekeeper the defendant is accused of  keeping against her will in an Irvine  apartment traveled to Orange County in first class, had her own cell phone and  was even shopped at neighborhood malls on the employer's dime.

Today's scheduled arraignment for Meshael Alayban, 42, who's charged  with felony human trafficking, was postponed until Sept. 20.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald Johnston questioned why the  defendant wasn't present in court for today's hearing, but her attorneys said  they had previously arranged to reschedule her plea. Alayban was released on $5  million bail earlier this month, but she is wearing a GPS device to track her  movements and she is not allowed to leave Orange County without permission.

After today's hearing, Alayban's attorneys Paul S. Meyer and Jennifer  Keller, issued the following statement:

The alleged victim and four other ``nannies'' for Alayban ``traveled to  the U.S. on $10,000 first class tickets, along with the family. These women had  cell phones, internet, Facebook, and the family even bought cable in their  native language for them. They enjoyed full use of the spa, gym and pool and  were often dropped off to shop alone at neighborhood malls, all paid for by the  family.''

Investigators will consider any evidence produced by defense attorneys,  said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney  Tony Rackauckas.

``We'll certainly consider all of the evidence ... as we do with all  other cases,'' Schroeder told City News Service.

Schroeder added, ``As far as traveling first class, who's going to take  care of the kids in the air unless they're all in first class.''

Rackauckas' chief of staff said the defendant has a ``tremendous amount  of resources,'' and that in high-profile cases such as this, ``It's not unusual  for a defendant to start going after the victims and calling them names and to  paint things in a very different light.''

Previously, Rackauckas made appearances for the prosecution, but Deputy  District Attorney Mike Murray, an experienced homicide prosecutor, is taking  over the prosecution.

Alayban is one of the six wives of Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin  Abdulaziz al Saud, a grandson of Saudi King Abdullah, according to authorities.

The charge against Alayban marks the first case of forced labor human  trafficking to be prosecuted in Orange County under terms of Proposition 35,  approved by voters in November.

The new law increased Alayban's potential punishment if she is convicted  from about six years to 12 years behind bars, according to Rackauckas.

Rackauckas has characterized the case as ``an example of forced labor''  locally.

Alayban was charged with one felony count of human trafficking.

Investigators were considering whether to file more charges because  authorities encountered four women from the Philippines who authorities said  they initially suspected also had been held against their will.

The alleged victim, a 30-year-old woman from Kenya, left the defendant's  condominium July 9 and flagged down a passing bus, Irvine police Lt. Julia  Engen said.

The woman sought employment because her 7-year-old daughter is ill and  she wanted to have enough money for medical care, Rackauckas said. She was  hired to cook, clean and do other household chores in her employer's palace,  according to prosecutors.

When the woman arrived for her work assignment, her passport was taken  and she was put to work for excessive hours for a fraction of the agreed-upon  salary, Engen said. When the woman complained about the working conditions and  asked for her passport back, it was refused, Engen said.

Prosecutors said she worked 16 hours every day with no days off. Her  salary was allegedly $220 a month, not the $1,600 she had been promised, and  was not allowed to return to Kenya. Her contract stated she would be able to  return to Kenya after three months if she wished, but the document was ``torn  up,'' when she reported for work, Rackauckas alleged.               

 

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