HARRISBURG, Pa. (CN) - An Indonesian woman was enslaved for 13 years in the United States by people who bought and sold her to others, and she claims her original captors did this to more than 100 other women, and were criminally charged for it.
Peddu Pattaiso sued Rim Alahmad, Tarik Alahmad, Mannatullah Ziadeh, Nura Ziadeh, and Rashid Ziadeh in Federal Court.
Pattaiso claims the defendants lured her to the United States from Indonesia and then "immediately upon her arrival, and for the next thirteen years, she was put to work and subjected to long, grueling workdays for little or no compensation under inhumane working conditions. To exploit plaintiff, defendants capitalized on her immigration status, lack of education, inability to communicate with the outside world, and unfamiliarity with the United States and its laws."
The Alahmads are a married couple living in Southern California, according to the lawsuit.
Rashid and Nura Ziadeh are a married couple living in or near Harrisburg and Manatullah is their daughter.
"The Ziadehs and Mannatullah Ziadeh are the three named defendants in a criminal action in this court, captioned United States v. Ziadeh, No. 1:12-cr-00043-WWC," according to the lawsuit.
Pattaiso claims that the defendants "willfully and knowingly recruited, transported, harbored, and exploited women for purposes of forced labor, callously preying upon their vulnerabilities."
"Plaintiff was not the only victim," she says. "Upon information and belief, defendants lured more than one hundred women into the United States over the years. Upon information and belief, most of the women caught up in defendants' scheme were brought to this country through the use of A-3 Non-Immigrant Visas secured under pretenses known to be false to defendants. An essential part of defendants' shared scheme was to avoid detection by immigration and other law enforcement authorities."
Pattaiso claims she was brought to the United States in February 2002 "with other women who had been similarly 'recruited' for purposes of providing forced labor in the United States."
As is common in such schemes, Pattaiso says, she had to pay for the privilege of being enslaved.
A-3 visas are issued for personal servants of government officials, according to the complaint. But neither the defendants' recruiter nor they themselves "ever intended plaintiff to provide labor or services to a foreign government official and plaintiff never, in fact, provided labor or services to a foreign governmental official," Pattaiso says.
As also is common in these cases, Pattaiso says, her new bosses - the Ziadehs -immediately confiscated her passport.
"For the next several years following her arrival in the United States, plaintiff worked around-the-clock as a domestic servant and child-caretaker in the Ziadehs' household in or near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania," the complaint states. "Despite being on call all hours of the day without breaks or time off, seven days a week, the Ziadehs only paid plaintiff $5 per day ($150 per month), substantially below the federal and state minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. The Ziadehs also improperly withheld at least $1,400 in wages under the false pretense that the funds were to be used to purchase plaintiff's return ticket to Indonesia. As a result of all of the foregoing, plaintiff was left with little or no money to send back to her four young children in Indonesia."
The complaint continues: "Around this time, Ms. Ziadeh began operating as an unauthorized trader and broker of Plaintiff's body and services, selling plaintiff and her labor and services to a hotel for a period of seven months, to a chocolate factory for a period of seven months, to a chicken packaging business for a period of one week, and to a cereal company for a period of one week. Upon information and belief, Ms. Ziadeh received a financial benefit for selling plaintiff and her labor and services to these companies. Meanwhile, plaintiff continued to work as a domestic servant and child-caretaker in the Ziadehs' household during evenings and on weekends. Nonetheless, plaintiff did not receive any compensation from the Ziadehs during this time period."
None of this is unusual for victims of human trafficking.
Pattaiso claims that in mid-2006, Ms. Ziadeh "sold" her for $7,000 to a married couple in Chicago. Pattaiso says she got no part of the $7,000, and never agreed to be sold. She says she worked for the Doe couple in or near Chicago for the next 2½ years, for $800 a month the first year, $900 a month the second year, and $1,000 a month for the final months. Then they shipped her back to the Ziadehs, and the abuses continued, she says.
"In or about early 2009, Ms. Ziadeh sold plaintiff and her services to Does No. 3-4, a married couple who then lived in Arizona, for $7,000. Plaintiff received no part of the $7,000 sum and did not agree to having her labor and services sold by Ms. Ziadeh."
After a year of abuse there, she says, Ziadeh sold her for $8,000 to the defendant Alahmads, who live in or near San Diego.
"(T)he Alahmads knew that Ms. Ziadeh had no right or authority to sell plaintiff or her services, but intentionally disregarded the unauthorized and illegal circumstances of the transaction in order to secure household labor at a cost far below fair market value," Pattaiso says in the lawsuit.
She says Alahmads met her at the San Diego airport, then took her to "their home in or near San Diego, where they kept plaintiff in the confines of their home - specifically, in a small shed behind the house. For the next one year and four months, plaintiff worked as a domestic servant and child-caretaker in the Alahmads' household. Plaintiff was on call all hours of the day without breaks or time off, seven days per week. Nonetheless, plaintiff was paid only $1,000 per month, substantially below the federal and state minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. While working for the Alahmads, Ms. Alahmad subjected plaintiff to verbal abuse and threatened Plaintiff with physical abuse. In particular, Ms. Alahmad yelled at plaintiff, called plaintiff names, and tried to hit plaintiff."
Pattaiso says she escaped in May 2011, and contacted "authorities" who protected her. In September 2013, she was issued a T-1 nonimmigrant visa, giving her temporary legal residency "as a victim of human trafficking."
She says the Ziadehs pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges.
She seeks wages due and damages for RICO violations, forced labor, human trafficking, and other charges.
She is represented by Lawrence Pockers with Duane Morris, of Philadelphia.
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