SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A woman left Kenya last year to take a job as a maid for a royal Saudi family, hoping to make enough money to cover her 7-year-old daughter's medical bills.
The woman, 30, alleges her passport was seized, she was forced to work long hours and she was paid only a fraction of what had been promised. It wasn't until she traveled with the Saudi family on their vacation to the United States that she was able to escape, according to authorities.
Carrying a suitcase, she flagged down a bus in the Orange County city of Irvine this week and told a passenger she was a victim of human trafficking, authorities said.
Meshael Alayban, 42, a Saudi princess, was arrested Wednesday and charged with a felony count of human trafficking for allegedly holding the woman and forcing her to work against her will. Held on $5 million bail, she appeared in court yesterday. "It's been 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and slavery has been unlawful in the United States, and certainly in California, all this time, and it's disappointing to see it in use here," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
Defense attorney Paul Meyer argued Wednesday for a reduced bail for Alayban, who has given her word she will stay to address the allegations.
It is the first labor trafficking case prosecuted in Orange County since voters approved a law last year to stiffen the penalties for human trafficking. If convicted, Alayban faces a maximum sentence of 12 years, double what she could have received a year ago, Rackauckas said.
Prosecutors say Alayban is one of six wives of Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud.
When police searched the condo, they found four other workers from the Philippines.
The women left voluntarily with officers and told them they were interested in being free, police said.