WASHINGTON (CN) – A Bolivian woman claims a World Bank employee enslaved her after luring her to the United States to work as a nanny.
Virginia Carazani sued Emma Zegarra in Federal Court, alleging human trafficking, slavery and breach of contract.
Carazani claims Zegarra gave her a contract “which promised reasonable working conditions and decent pay,” but when she got here, Zegarra “completely disregarded the contract” and forced her “to work around the clock, seven days a week” for absolutely nothing.
Carazani, 35, Zegarra, of Vienna, Va., first employed her in Bolivia, paying her $100 a month to care for her two children and do household chores.
In 2006, Zegarra took a job with the World Bank, and promised Carazani $7 an hour and a five-day work week with health insurance for her and her young son, plus overtime and sick leave if she would move to the United States to work for the family, according to the complaint.
However, “Immediately upon Ms. Carazani’s arrival in the United States, the defendant confiscated Ms. Carazani’s passport and papers, as well as the legal documents for her minor son. Ms. Carazani was unable to leave Zegarra’s home without passports for herself or her son,” according to the complaint.
Carazani says Zegarra forced her to work as a domestic servant without pay for 3 three, and constantly threatened and intimidated her to keep her quiet.
“In the entire three-year period, Zegarra never paid Ms. Carazani,” the complaint states. “All the work that Ms. Carazani performed in Zegarra’s home was uncompensated, forced labor.
“For the three years that she was held in involuntary servitude in the Zegarra home, Ms. Carazani received no vacation time, no sick days, and no time off.”
Carazani says she didn’t get the health insurance either. When she got sick, she says, Zegarra “dropped her off alone at an emergency room. When the hospital bills arrived, Zegarra forced Ms. Carazani to request money from her own family members to cover the bills.”
Carazani says she was held prisoner in the Zegarra house, and threatened with deportation when she asked questions about her pay.
“In an effort to terrify Ms. Carazani, the defendant told Ms. Carazani that a device in her World Bank office allowed Zegarra to listen to Ms. Carazani’s phone conversations in the home,” the complaint states. “The belief that all of her telephone calls were monitored prevented Ms. Carazani from telling her family about the abuse she was suffering in the United States. By instilling fear in Ms. Carazani, the Defendant kept Ms. Carazani isolated from the outside world. Ms. Carazani was unable to tell anyone she was being held in forced labor.”
She says she was forced to work “approximately 75 hours each week” cooking, cleaning and caring for Zegarra’s now-adolescent kids.
Zegarra promised to depositing her wages into bank account for Carazani, but deposited only $8.50 for her entire 3 years of servitude, Carazani says.
“Zegarra, when angry, would scream, throw plates and slam doors. Zegarra routinely became enraged when Ms. Carazani asked for her wages,” according to the complaint.
Carazani says she rescued by a good Samaritan and the FBI.
She seeks wages due and punitive damages for human trafficking, slavery, unjust enrichment and infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Julie Carpenter with Jenner & Block.
A search of the World Bank website for Emma Zegarra this morning was not productive.