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Saudi princess accused of enslaving maids in Calif. home


This image provided by the Irvine Police Department shows Meshael Alayban, who was arrested July 9, 2013 in Irvine, Calif., for allegedly holding a domestic servant against her will.

A Saudi Arabian princess is accused of “slavery” after a woman who was allegedly held against her will as a domestic servant escaped from a three-story building, flagged down a bus and alerted authorities in Irvine.

The victim, a 30-year-old maid from Kenya, and four other women from the Philippines, were allegedly being held by Saudi national Meshael Alayban, who is accused of stealing their passports and work contracts and forcing them to work long hours with little pay, according to Lt. Julia Engen of the Irvine Police Department.

Police arrested Alayban Wednesday morning.

All five women are in good health and there are no indications of physical abuse, officials said.
Alayban, a 42-year-old mother of three, is accused of slavery by authorities.

She likely will be the first person prosecuted in Orange County under California’s Proposition 35, which raised the penalty of human trafficking after voters approved it last November.

“The laws of our nation and California do not tolerate people who deprive or violate the liberty of another and obtain forced labor or services,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement issued by the Irvine Police Department.

Alayban first hired the Kenyan native in March 2012 to work at her home in Saudi Arabia, Engen said. They had signed a two-year contract guaranteeing the worker would be paid $1,600 a month.

In May 2013, Alayban and her family moved to Irvine with the victim, who cooked, cleaned, and washed laundry for eight people.

Authorities say the victim was working 16 hours a day for $220 a month – a fraction of what they agreed upon.

After searching Alayban’s residence, police discovered that five workers were all being held at the home.

The suspect owns multiple condominiums in the area which she and her extended family reside in, Engen said.

When police asked the captive women if they wanted to leave with them, they all said yes. Authorities are helping them find a place to stay.

Police are searching for the workers’ missing travel documents, which they believe are in a safety deposit box at a local bank.

Alayban is being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of a $5 million bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.