Meshael Alayban, Saudi Princess from Maid Slave Case, Has Truth on Her Side: Lawyer
See Update No. 7 on Page 3 about a hearing on Meshael Alayban's GPS monitoring device and her attorney saying the truth will set her free. Update Nos. 5-6 at the bottom of Page 2 are about the Saudi Arabian princess making her $5 million bail and being freed. Update Nos. 3-4 on Page 2 are about her arraignment being delayed, her relationship to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, her attorney's claim she is being set up, and the charges, possible punishments and movement restrictions she faces. Update Nos. 1-2 on the next page detail her bail being set at $5 million despite prosecutors seeking no bail.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 10, 12:58 P.M.: A 30-year-old Kenyan who flagged down a passing bus in Irvine and was assisted by a female passenger later ratted out a Saudi Arabian national who allegedly kept the distressed newcomer as a domestic slave.
Meshael Alayban, 42, was arrested Tuesday night at her condominium on Gramercy in Irvine on suspicion of human trafficking and held on $1 million bail. Jail records list Alayban's occupation as "princess."
The sad tale is related in a statement sent this morning from Irvine Police Lt. Julia Engen, the department spokesman. The woman was contracted through an agency in her home country of Kenya in March 2012 to work as a housekeeper with Alayban's family in Saudi Arabia. But once the unidentified worker arrived in the Middle East country, Alayban allegedly took her passport and employment contract.
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The Kenyan would go on to work excessive hours and at a pay less than specified in the contract. But when she complained about her working conditions and asked for her passport back, Alayban is accused of refusing to comply.
This past May, Alayban and her family traveled to the U.S. with the Kenyan and four filipinas who'd been contracted as workers in a similar fashion. They all wound up in the Irvine condo until the Kenyan--carrying a suitcase and a pamphlet she picked up at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia--flagged down that bus. The flier specified her rights and warned against becoming a victim of human trafficking.
The bus passenger helped the woman contact Irvine Police, who working with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched an investigation, according to Engen's statement. While Irvine detectives and HSI special agents executed a search warrant at the Gramercy condo, they discovered Alayban allegedly took away the travel documents from the women from the Philippines as well, Engen said. Detectives are working to recover the documents believed to be in a safe deposit box at a local bank.
All five women left with detectives voluntarily and each of their cases will be investigated, vowed Engen, who added they were found in good health, showed no signs of physical abuse and were being assisted with finding housing at a shelter. In the meantime, police are awaiting charges against Alayban coming from the Orange County District Attorney's office, possibly by later this afternoon.
UPDATE NO. 1, JULY 10, 2:33 P.M.: Representatives of the Orange County District Attorney's office are arguing at a bail hearing right now that Meshael Alayban should be held without bail because she allegedly poses a flight risk.
More is expected to be revealed at a media briefing shortly.
UPDATE NO. 2, JULY 10, 3:55 P.M.: Bail was set at $5 million this afternoon for Meshael Alayban, who was also ordered to wear a GPS tracking device to the bail-setting hearing. She is to return to Santa Ana court for arraignment Thursday.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who appeared in court for the prosecution, told reporters that he wanted to let victims of "indentured servitude" know they will have support if they seek help from law enforcement, according to City News Service.
Some victims from foreign countries brought to the country as slaves may not realize it is illegal, explained Rackauckas, adding, "I would like it to be known we intend to enforce that law."
He confirmed Alayban is a Saudi Arabian princess.
There are about 5,000 princes and princesses in the Middle Eastern country.
More charges may be coming if it is determined the women from the Philippines were also victims of human trafficking, the DA noted.
UPDATE NO. 3, JULY 10, 4:49 P.M.: Alayban is one of the wives of Saudi Arabian Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) that indicates she is to be arraigned Thursday morning in Santa Ana on a felony count of human trafficking that could send her to state prison for 12 years with a conviction.
The OCDA is prosecuting the Saudi national under California's Proposition 35, the anti-human slavery initiative voters approved in November. Despite having sought no bail for Alayban, the OCDA notes that if she posts the $5 million bail she must surrender her passport, not travel outside of Orange County without approval from the court and wear a GPS tracking device at all times.
"The laws of our nation and California do not tolerate people who deprive or violate the liberty of another and obtain forced labor or services," District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says in the statement. "If any person is being enslaved, he or she should contact law enforcement. Any victim of human trafficking will receive the benefit and protection of the laws of the United States and California."
"We are gratified to have been able to help this victim find her freedom," Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard Jr. is also quoted as saying in the statement, which includes this from Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles: "In this country, it is not only unacceptable to hold people against their will, it is criminal. This case should serve as an example to human trafficking victims that they can come to authorities without fear, so we can provide them with protection and bring those responsible to justice."
Other items of interest from the OCDA release:
* The 30-year-old victim from Kenya needed work to pay for her young daughter's medical care.
* Her two-year contract with an employment agency guaranteed that she would be paid $1,600 a month to work eight hours a day, five days a week. The contract also stated that she would be paid more after three months of employment and could alternately return home after three months if she was dissatisfied with her employment.
* Alayban hired the Kenyan to work in Saudi Arabia to cook, clean, iron, do laundry and other household chores in the palace. She is accused of making the victim work 16 hours a day and seven days a week without a day off and paying only $220 a month. She is accused of taking away the victim's passport and refusing to allow the victim to return to Kenya.
* While bringing the woman to the U.S. this past May 6, Alayban allegedly instructed her to lie about her working conditions to the United States Embassy, telling officials she worked within the hours and pay stipulated in the contract.
* Alayban allegedly gave the Kenyan her passport as she passed through customs at Los Angeles International Airport and then took it back after they were clear.
* The Kenyan was forced to tend to at least eight people in four apartments in the same Irvine complex, washing dishes, cooking, cleaning two apartments and doing the laundry and ironing. Alayban allegedly paid her only $220 a month to work long hours with no days off or breaks.
* The Kenyan was only allowed outside to carry the family's bags.
Alayban was arrested at her Irvine apartment at approximately 12:20 a.m. this morning. The investigation is ongoing on the local and national level, with even the State Department pitching in. The other female workers discovered at the Irvine residence may also be victims, the DA claims.
Anyone with additional information or who thinks they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Mike Munn at 714.347.8560 or Irive Police Detective Victoria Hurtado at 949.724.7000.
UPDATE NO. 4, JULY 11, 11:45 A.M.: Arraignment was postponed today to July 29 for Princess Meshael Alayban, whose husband has five other wives and is a grandson of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
As reported by the Weekly, the Orange County District Attorney's office has multiple cases in local courts based on California's new anti-human trafficking law, but this is the first concerning forced labor as opposed to prostitution.
But Paul Meyer, the attorney for the princess, is telling the local media this is a set-up by the victim. "This is a domestic work hours dispute," Meyer, a veteran Orange County defense attorney, reportedly said.
He argued at Wednesday's bail hearing that his client did not deserve such a high bond amount due to her wealth. Meyer claimed Alayban is a frequent visitor to the U.S. looking forward to defending herself at the Santa Ana courthouse.
UPDATE NO. 5, JULY 11, 2 P.M.: The woman from Kenya who was allegedly held as a domestic slave by Saudi Arabian Princess Meshael Alayban has lawyered up. And like District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who is prosecuting the criminal case at the Santa Ana courthouse, attorney Steve Baric asked Judge Gregg Prickett to deny bail for Alayban.
Short of that, Baric asked that her bail be set at $20 million, but Prickett denied both requests and also granted the defendant's request that she not be present for her next scheduled hearing July 29 and other looming court appearances as well. The judge said Alayban having surrendered her passport this morning and wearing a GPS device once she posts bail will suffice to keep her in Orange County.
Baric told Paul Anderson of City News Service his client found the U.S. the best place to seek her freedom from Alayban.
"She viewed the opportunity when she came to the U.S.," Baric reportedly said. "She's a smart woman. She saw her opportunity to get freedom and she took it."
Alayban was in Irvine with her husband the prince and their three children, CNS reports.
UPDATE NO. 6, JULY 11, 4:26 P.M.: A 4:20 p.m. statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office confirms Alayban made her $5 million bail and will be released today.
Besides surrendering her passport, wearing a GPS device and having to get the court's permission to leave Orange County, she is to have no contact with the alleged victim, prosecutors note.
Despite the pending release, attorneys from both sides were returning to court today to discuss an undisclosed issue involving the GPS monitoring.
UPDATE, JULY 12, 3:24 P.M.: The great GPS court debate has been solved!
The question raised in court Thursday afternoon concerned problems with the Orange County Sheriff's Department providing a GPS monitoring device before there is a conviction. So, Anaheim-based GPS Monitoring Solutions was hired to outfit the device on Alayban in Prickett's courtroom.
She then left with a security detail of four men. Her $5 million bail had earlier been posted by the Saudi consulate, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office. And now, we don't know if the Saudis used Aladdin Bail Bonds.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who is heading up the prosecution, has said that California's anti-human slavery initiative passed in November can add up to six years to Alayban's prison sentence if she is convicted. She's facing up to 12 years behind bars.
Paul S. Meyer, Alayban's attorney who has characterized the entire incident as an employment dispute over hours and wages, released a written statement where he says, "We ... expect that the truth will resolve this matter."
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