The original version of this release was published by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
Hudson County Woman Convicted at Trial of Compelled Labor of Sri Lankan Woman for over Nine Years
NEWARK, N.J. - A Hudson County, New Jersey, woman was convicted last week on charges of forced labor, alien harboring for financial gain, and marriage fraud, announced Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito for the District of New Jersey.
Alia Imad Faleh Al Hunaity, aka “Alia Al Qaternah,” 43, was found guilty on all counts of the indictment against her following a six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court. The jury deliberated for two hours before returning the guilty verdict.
“The defendant took advantage of the victim for years, forcing her to live in terrible conditions, work without pay, and then enter into a fraudulent marriage to continue the cycle of abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to investigate and vigorously prosecute forced labor cases so that victims can obtain justice.”
“The defendant in this case treated the victim as a slave,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Al-Hunaity kept the victim in this country illegally and hid her away, in order to force her to perform household work for Al-Hunaity without pay, privacy, or the ability to move about freely. Through the guilty verdicts in this case and other prosecutions like it, this office continues to work to ensure that the evil of human trafficking is brought out from hiding and into the light so that it may be punished appropriately.”
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial, Hunaity brought the victim, a Sri Lankan national, to the United States on a temporary visa in 2009 to perform domestic work. Hunaity caused the victim to overstay her visa and remain in the United States illegally for over nine years. Hunaity forced the victim to cook and clean her homes in Woodland Park and Secaucus, New Jersey, and to care for her three children, all without pay. She further limited the victim’s interactions with the world outside of Hunaity’s homes. During this time, Hunaity required the victim to sleep on a bed in a public space in Hunaity’s homes, including in the kitchen. In 2018, Hunaity forced the victim to marry her so that the victim could obtain legal residence and Hunaity could continue to force her to work without fear of the victim being deported.
The forced labor charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4.
U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Newark Division, under the direction of Brian Michael, led the investigation.
This case was prosecuted in conjunction with the interagency Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Newark Fraud Detection and National Security Unit also provided support.