Saudi Family Accused of Human Trafficking
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - A wealthy Saudi Arabian family trafficked a Kenyan woman to the United States and put her to forced labor in their home, working 15-hour days under constant threats and abuse, the woman claims in court.
Winfred Muchira sued Halah Al-Rawaf, Ibrahim Al-Rashoudi, Fahad Al-Rashoudi and Lulah Al-Rashoudi in Federal Court, claiming the family verbally and emotionally abused her after luring her to states to be their live-in maid.
Muchira says she found out about the opportunity to be the family's "housegirl" though her church pastor in her Kenyan village.
After signing a contract and working for the family for more than a year in Saudi Arabia, they persuaded her to move with them to the United States, promising her better pay and less grueling work, she claims.
Muchira, who was aware of the more favorable labor laws of America, says she agreed, but upon arriving, the family seized her passport and forced her to work in their Northern Virginia home for next to nothing.
"Ms. Muchira was required to work long hours every day, usually from early morning to past midnight," the complaint states. "She routinely worked twelve, thirteen, or fifteen hours each day.
"Ms. Muchira was on call at all hours and worked for defendants every single day from the day she arrived in the United States until her escape approximately eight months later.
"Ms. Muchira cooked, cleaned, and performed any chore that a family member or their guests asked her to do."
She claims the family verbally and psychologically abused her.
"Al-Rawaf did not allow Ms. Muchira to sit on chairs or couches. When Ms. Muchira wanted to sit down to rest, Al-Rawaf would ask her, 'Who are you to sit in a chair?' Al-Rawaf would accuse Ms. Muchira of dirtying the furniture by sitting in it," the complaint states.
It adds: "Ms. Muchira slept in the basement. For the first five months in the house, her room had no heat.
"In winter, when the defendants left the house, they turned off the central heat and locked Ms. Muchira in the house, where she remained until the family returned, often many hours later."
She says this treatment caused her to suffer severe colds and coughs along with severe back pain from frequently carrying heavy furniture and shopping bags, but she was denied medical attention.
Muchira says she was promised $1,600 a month, but was paid only $400.
She escaped after calling a human trafficking hotline.
"Ms. Muchira suffered psychological harm as a result of defendants forcing her to work more than eighty hours a week without lawful compensation or adequate rest, denying her medical treatment, refusing to allow her to attend church, withholding her passport and identity documents, denying her access to wages, isolating her from family and social contact, prohibiting her from leaving the house, and verbally and psychologically abusing her, among other actions," the complaint states.
She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for human trafficking, forced labor, false imprisonment, conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Deborah Yates, with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, of Washington, D.C.