A New Jersey woman is facing charges of forced labor, harboring a Sri Lankan national, and marriage fraud according to the office of New Jersey’s US Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Alia Imad Faleh Al Hunaity, who is also known as Alia Al Qaterneh, was arraigned in federal court in Camden on Wednesday, December 12. Federal prosecutors allege that Hunaity forced the victim to work for nine years without pay, per North Jersey.
It is alleged that Hunaity brought the Sri Lankan into the United States in 2009. The victim was brought in via a temporary visa for domestic work. Hunaity then caused her to overstay her visa. The victim then stayed illegally in the country and resided at Hunaity’s home exclusively for more than nine years.
The Sri Lankan national was then forced to work without pay. Per New York Post, the indictment alleges that Hunaity forced the housekeeper to work without pay. She did this “by means of threats of serious harm” and “threatened abuse of law and legal process.”
Not only did Hunaity enslave the housekeeper, but federal prosecutors say that she also limited the victim’s interaction with the outside world. This left the Sri Lankan with very few options at her disposal as her access to other people was severely limited.
Criminal investigations, business audits & arrests by ICE HSI special agents & auditors surged in fiscal year 2018 compared to the previous year, following a commitment made by ICE in late 2017 to step up its worksite enforcement efforts across the country https://t.co/VOeZxqgF9t pic.twitter.com/HY38TzYS3r— ICE (@ICEgov) December 12, 2018
Hunaity then took the abuse a step further where she forced the victim to marry her on April 11, 2018. It is alleged that Hunaity took advantage of U.S. same-sex marriage laws, per Patch, when she forced the illegal resident to wed her. The marriage would then benefit Hunaity because the housekeeper would then have a legal residence and there would be no duty of compensation.
The Newark division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security is credited with the investigative work which led to Hunaity’s indictment. The Secaucus resident was arrested on September 19 and faces hefty fines and criminal charges.
Hunaiety, who is 43 years old, pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $150,000 unsecured bond. She faces a total of 30 years in prison. Forced labor carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, as well as a possible fine of $250,000, or the equivalent of lost wages. The crime of harboring an alien carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, while Hunaity also faces an additional five years for marriage fraud.
Hunaity is being represented by Robert Kovic, an attorney in Hackensack. The Hackensack Daily Voice reports that the government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy of Carpenito’s Criminal Division in Newark.