Houman Fakhimi

Irvine Human Trafficking Arrest: Two Very Different Perspectives

An alleged case of human trafficking out of Orange County has made international headlines, as it involves reports of domestic slavery and a wealthy Saudi princess.

But our Irvine criminal defense lawyers know that this, as with so many other criminal cases, has two very different narratives, depending on which side you're quoting.

Usually, we only hear one side - the prosecution's - all the way up until the case is dropped, pleaded out or goes to court. The reason has partially to do with public records' laws. Police reports, affidavits and the like are public record, available to media outlets far in advance of a case's resolution. However, they only tell one side of the story. The only time we get a different perspective prior to the conclusion of a case is through snippets gleaned from court hearings or if a defense attorney chooses to make a statement to the media. The latter is a strategic move that has to be carefully weighed in each case.

In the case of the accused human trafficking Saudi princess, defense attorneys have chosen to speak out, probably due to the intense interest in the case and the damaging statements made by police and prosecutors that could ultimately harm her defense if not addressed.

On the one hand, we have the account from the alleged victim, which is this:

The princess, who is charged with one count of human trafficking, reportedly hired the Kenyan woman in 2012. When the servant arrived in Saudi Arabia, her passport was reportedly seized by the princess, meaning she would not have been free to travel.

She said during her employment, she was forced to work hours that were excessive. She was paid less than she was promised and she was denied the ability to leave.

She and four other servants traveled to the U.S. with the royal family in May. The alleged victim had reportedly signed a two-year contract with the family, assuring payment of $1,600 monthly for working eight hours daily, five days a week. However, she said that beginning in the spring, she was forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week and only paid $220 each week.

The woman said she was denied a request to return to Kenya, where she has a young child. She said she was forced to tend to eight people in four apartments in the same Irvine complex. Her duties were to wash dishes, cook, do laundry, iron and clean. She was not given breaks and was never given a day off. She was also reportedly not allowed to leave, except during family outings, during which she carried the family bags.

She reportedly managed to escape and told authorities she wished to be free.

However, attorneys for the family characterize what's happening as a contract dispute.

They say that the woman was never mistreated. She was reportedly given her own cell phone to call anywhere in the world whenever she wished.

The royal family reportedly paid $10,000 each for their servants to travel first class to the United States because they said they would have felt guilty if the servants were seated far in the back.

The complex where the family and the servants stayed was reportedly in an upper class community. All the servants had access to the Internet, including Facebook. The workers were given access to cable channels broadcast in their native languages. They were also reportedly given access to the pool, spa and gym within the complex, and they were in some cases dropped off alone at area shopping malls and given permission to use the family credit cards to purchase whatever they needed.

This is the first case of forced labor prosecuted in Orange County since the state passed a ballot initiative targeting human trafficking last year.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in Irvine.

Additional Resources

Princess' lawyers paint different portrait of servant's treatment, July 29, 2013, By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times

Lengthy California Juvenile Sentences Reviewed, July 30, 2013, Irvine Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog.