Meshael Alayban, 42, is accused of one felony count of human trafficking and faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison if convicted. She is slated to be arraigned Thursday. In the meantime, the court set the multi-million dollar bail based upon concerns that Alayban, who is one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, poses a serious flight risk. The case is being prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
"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," said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. "If any person is being enslaved, he or she should contact law enforcement. Any victim of human trafficking will receive the benefit and protection of the laws of the United States and California."
The charge against Alayban stems from an ongoing probe by the Irvine Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The human trafficking allegation came to light after the Kenyan woman, whom prosecutors are referring to as Jane Doe, escaped from the Irvine apartment Tuesday where Alayban's family was staying and flagged down a bus driver. Jane Doe was carrying a U.S. Department of State pamphlet, given to her at the embassy in Saudi Arabia when she was issued her travel visa, describing her rights and warning of human trafficking.
"We are gratified to have been able to help this victim find her freedom," said Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard Jr.
Jane Doe told investigators she needed to pay for her daughter's medical care, so she secured work in Saudi Arabia and signed a two-year contract with an employment agency guaranteeing her $1,600 a month for a 40-hour work week. The contract stated that she would be paid more after three months of employment and could return home after three months if she was dissatisfied with the work.
Jane Doe alleges Alayban and her family brought her to Irvine in May where she was required to work tending to at least eight people in four apartments in the same complex. Alayban is accused of paying the victim only $220 a month, forcing her to work 16-hour days, seven days a week. Alayban also allegedly refused to return the victim's passport or travel documents and did not permit her to leave the residence except for a family outing so the victim could carry the family's bags.
"In this country, it is not only unacceptable to hold people against their will, it is criminal," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "This case should serve as an example to human trafficking victims that they can come to authorities without fear, so we can provide them with protection and bring those responsible to justice."
HSI special agents and Irvine Police Department detectives served a search warrant late Tuesday at Irvine apartments where Alayban and her family were staying. During the search, investigators located four additional Filipino female workers whose passports may also have been seized by the defendant's family. The investigation regarding these potential victims and other potential defendants is ongoing.
Anyone with additional information that may be relevant to this case is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Mike Munn at 714-347-8560 or Irvine Police Department Detective Victoria Hurtado at 949-724-7000. The public may also provide information by calling HSI's toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or submit information using HSI's online tip form at http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp