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Irvine Saudi princess accused of human trafficking

July 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A woman identified as a Saudi Arabian princess was arrested Tuesday after allegedly holding a servant against her will at her condominium in Irvine.

Meshael Alayban, 42, faces human trafficking charges.

Authorities say a Kenyan woman contacted the Irvine Police Department after escaping from the female suspect and flagging down a bus. A passenger who saw the 30-year-old victim in distress helped her contact authorities.

Investigators say the victim had contracted to work for Alayban's family in Saudi Arabia through an agency in Kenya in March 2012. Once she arrived in Saudi Arabia, police say, her passports and contract were taken from her.

The victim said according to the original contract, she was supposed to be paid $1,600 a month and work five 8-hour days a week. However, she claims she was only paid $220 a month and forced to work 16-hour days, seven days a week.

Police say Alayban refused to give the victim her passport back, except for a short stint on her way into the U.S.

"Gave her her passport long enough to come into the United States, told her what to say. And then as soon as she arrived in the United States, then they took her passport back and put her back to work under the same kind of conditions that she had in Saudi Arabia," said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Rackauckas said the victim claimed she was working day in and day out, waiting on up to eight people at a time.

Alayban's family came into the U.S. with the victim in May 2013. Authorities say the family also brought four other women from the Philippines, who were under similar contracts.

The investigation into Alayban after the female victim's escape led authorities to the suspect's condominium, where a search warrant was served and the other four women were contacted.

Detectives say they are working to recover the womens' documents, which are believed to be in a safe deposit box at a local bank.

Investigations into each of the victims' circumstances are ongoing. All five women are said to be in good health. No indications of physical abuse were found.

Alayban is being held in lieu of $5 million bail at the Orange County Jail.

The investigation was coordinated by the Irvine Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

This will be the first human trafficking case prosecuted under Proposition 35, which increases the penalty for human trafficking. Alayban's arraignment was scheduled for Thursday morning. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 12 years behind bars.


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