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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Nursing Agency Called Human Trafficker

(CN) - A Filipina accountant claims a nurses' staffing agency subjected her to human trafficking, promising but failing to sponsor her green card application, effectively enslaving her, paying her far less than promised and working her far more hours, and keeping her in "silence, fear and obedience through the defendants' constant veiled threats and intimidated that she might be deported."

Jacqueline Aguirre sued Best Care Agency, Dorothy De Castro, and Perlita Jordan in Brooklyn Federal Court. Best Care works out of an office in Floral Park, N.Y., on Long Island.

She claims that while the defendants mistreated her, they subjected her to "constant veiled threats and intimidation that she might be deported if ... she revealed to government authorities her mistreatment at the hands of her employers."

Aguirre, who has a bachelor's degree in accountancy, says was visiting the United States as a tourist when she learned of a part-time accounting position at the Best Care Agency.

She claims that Best Care's principals, defendants De Castro and Jordan, repeatedly told her that she would "certainly receive the approval of her green card application" with their sponsorship and that Best Care had the financial means to sponsor her through the immigration process.

At the same time, Aguirre says, "Defendants knowingly presented immigration petitions containing false statements as to the true nature of employment of the plaintiff as well as the plaintiff's compensation rates to the Legacy INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and to its successor USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services)."

Among other things, the agency claimed it was paying her $19 an hour though it paid her only $8 an hour, Aguirre says.

After the INS approved the defendants' initial H-1B nonimmigrant petition, the defendants advanced their scheme by claiming they would continue to sponsor her green card application if she agreed to work with them until 2 years after the application was approved, Aguirre says.

Fearful of being found to be in the U.S. unlawfully, Aguirre said she reluctantly agreed to the defendants' demands. But she says the scheme unraveled in April 2009 when immigration officials discovered Best Care did not have money to pay Aguirre her promised salary or to support her green card application.

As a consequence, Aguirre found herself not only out of work, but subject to deportation.

She seeks punitive damages for fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, unjust enrichment, conspiracy, and violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

She is represented by Felix Q. Vinluan of Manhattan.

The United States is facing a severe shortage of nurses, and The Philippines has been a prime target for unscrupulous recruiters.

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