Hudson County woman convicted of enslaving Sri Lankan national

43-year-old forced her victim to perform unpaid labor in confinement for nine years, feds say

The defendant, now convicted, faces a sentencing hearing in September.
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The defendant, now convicted, faces a sentencing hearing in September.

U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito has announced the conviction of a 43-year-old Hudson County woman on charges of forced labor, alien harboring for financial gain, and marriage fraud, after a jury found her guilty of enslaving a Sri Lankan national for nine years.

Alia Imad Faleh Al-Hunaity was found guilty on all counts of the federal indictment against her after a six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court. The jury deliberated for two hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

According to Carpenito, Al-Hunaity had enslaved her victim and limited her interaction with the outside world. Hunaity forced her victim to marry her so that she could obtain legal residence, and not be deported.

“The defendant in this case treated the victim as a slave,” Carpenito said. “Al-Hunaity kept the victim in this country illegally and hid her away, in order to force her to perform household work for Al-Hunaity without pay, privacy, or the ability to move about freely. Through the guilty verdicts in this case and other prosecutions like it, this office continues work to ensure that the evil of human trafficking is brought out from hiding and into the light so that it may be punished appropriately.”

The jury made conclusions based on several documents and pieces of evidence the prosecution presented at the trial.

Hunaity brought the victim, a Sri Lankan national, to the United States on a temporary visa in 2009 to perform domestic work, Carpenito said. She forced her victim to cook and clean her homes in Woodland Park and Secaucus and to care for her three children, but was not paid.

According to the government’s case, Hunaity limited the victim’s interactions with others by confining her to the homes she was forced to work in. During this time, Hunaity forced the victim to sleep in her homes.

Then, in 2018, Hunaity forced her victim to marry her so that the victim could obtain legal residence. Hunaity did this so that she could continue forcing her victim to work without fear that the victim could be deported.

The forced labor charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Carpenito and assistant Attorney General Dreiband credited special agents of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, New York Region, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, with the investigation leading to today’s verdicts.

This case was prosecuted in conjunction with the interagency Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor.

ACT Teams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.

The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Macurdy and Alyson M. Oswald of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, Criminal Division, and Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.