A Saudi Arabian princess was arrested Wednesday and charged with human trafficking in Santa Ana, California for allegedly holding up to five women against their will and forcing them to work for several families in an Orange County condominium complex. According to CBS News, police arrested 42-year-old Meshael Alayban, one of the six wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and charged her with one count of human trafficking, a charge that could send her to prison for up to 12 years if convicted.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said that Alayban was arrested after a 30-year-old Kenyan woman contacted police saying that she was a victim of human trafficking. The woman, carrying a suitcase, flagged down a bus in Santa Ana on Tuesday night. She told the driver and fellow passengers that she was trying to escape a situation where she was being held against her will. The passengers urged her to contact police.
The woman said that she had been hired in Kenya in 2012 to work for Alayban's family. When she arrived in Saudi Arabia, she was stripped off her passport and forced to work more than double the amount of hours she agreed to for less than half the money.
Attorneys for Alayban insisted that the situation is simply a dispute over work hours and that the Kenyan woman is lying. Rackauckas rejected that characterization of the matter.
"This is not a contract dispute," he said at a bail hearing for Alayban on Wednesday. "This is holding someone captive against their will."
Alayban's bail was set at $5 million. Rackauckas argued that the amount should be set higher, that even $20 million would not be enough to compel a Saudi royal to appear in court. The judge also required Alayban to submit to GPS tracking and forbade her to leave to county without getting permission.
Alayban's attorneys argued that the bail amount should not be set at a staggering amount just because their client is wealthy. Rackauckas pointed out that the Saudi consulate had already offered to put up $1 million bail for Alayban.
The Kenyan woman said that she was brought to the U.S. in May with the family. She was put to work cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry and ironing for families in four units in a condominium complex. Since March 2012, she said, she has been working 16-hour days, 7 days a week, and has only been paid $220 per month. Under the terms of her original contract in Kenya, she was to work 8 hour days for five days a week and earn a monthly salary of $1,600.
When police searched the condominiums, they found four women from the Philippines who were being held in similar conditions. When police asked them if they wanted to leave, they said yes and came willingly. No charges have yet been filed in connection to their situation, said Rackauckas.
Alayban will be arraigned on Thursday.
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