Slavery is not something you’d expect in the 21st Century in Hudson County, yet here we are.
A 44-year-old Secaucus woman has been sentenced to 70 months in prison for a conviction on charges of forced labor, alien harboring for financial gain, and marriage fraud, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Alia Imad Faleh Al Hunaity, also known as “Alia Al Qaternah,” was found guilty in May 2019 on all counts of the indictment against her. The decision was reached following a six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler, who imposed the sentence on March 10 in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial, Hunaity enslaved a Sri Lankan woman as her housekeeper.
From Sri Lanka to hell
Hunaity brought the victim, a Sri Lankan national, to the United States on a temporary visa in 2009 to perform domestic work. After coming to the U.S., Hunaity caused the victim to overstay her visa and remain in the United States illegally for more than nine years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
During the victim’s imprisonment, Hunaity forced her to cook and clean her homes in Woodland Park and Secaucus. The victim was also forced to care for Hunaity’s three children, all without pay.
The victim was not allowed any freedom. The U.S. Attorney stated that Hunaity limited the victim’s interactions with the world outside of Hunaity’s multiple homes.
During this time, Hunaity required the victim to sleep on a bed in a public space in Hunaity’s homes, including in the kitchen. And things only got worse.
In 2018, Hunaity forced the victim to marry her so that the victim could obtain legal residence in the U.S. Hunaity could then continue to force her to work without fear of the victim being deported.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Kugler sentenced Hunaity to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay restitution of $1.2 million to the victim.
Carpenito credited special agents of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Labor under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, with the investigation leading to sentencing.
According to the U.S. Attorney, this case was prosecuted in conjunction with the interagency Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) initiative of the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Labor.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. These cases involve 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 is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy and Trial Attorney Kate Hill of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.