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Houston Woman Pleads Guilty to Forced Labor Charges

HOUSTON - Rozina Mohd Ali pleaded guilty and was sentenced today in federal district court in Houston, Texas, for her role in holding an Indonesian woman in forced labor as a domestic servant, the Justice Department has announced. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Ali, 43, of Sugarland, Texas, will spend one year and a day in prison and will pay the victim $72,676 in restitution.

“The defendant forced a hard-working Indonesian woman to do her domestic work for practically no money at all,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Through this guilty plea, the defendant admitted that she threatened the victim and withheld the victim’s passport so that she could not escape. The Justice Department takes all accusations very seriously and will continue to aggressively prosecute human trafficking cases such as this one wherever possible.”

During the plea hearing, Ali admitted she withheld the victim’s Indonesian passport in order to force the victim to work for Ali and Ali’s family. Ali forced the victim to work long hours over a four to five year period, performing house and yard work and taking care of the defendant and defendant’s family members with almost no compensation. In August of 2002, Ali agreed to employ the victim to work as a domestic servant for her in Malaysia for approximately $112 per month. A contract setting up the arrangement was executed. Then, Ali brought the victim to the United States on a temporary visitor’s visa to work as a domestic servant. From then until August of 2007, the victim worked tirelessly for Ali or Ali’s relatives as was only paid twice for her labor. The total compensation paid to the victim during the nearly five year period of “employment” was approximately $320.

During that time, Ali prevented the victim from returning to Indonesia by withholding her passport (necessary for international travel) and by threatening her with physical harm and other adverse consequences if she did not continue working for Ali. However, on August 19, 2007, the victim successfully escaped Ali’s residence. She was then discovered by strangers, who assisted her by taking her to the Indonesian Consulate.

“This unfortunate case of forced labor is but another side of human trafficking, subtle but just as insidious,” said Don DeGabrielle, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

Ali has been in federal custody without bond since her arrest by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, a federally-funded multi-agency human trafficking task force.

Human trafficking prosecutions such as this one are a top priority of the Department of Justice. In the last seven fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, has increased by nearly seven-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years. In FY 2007, the Department obtained a record number of convictions in human trafficking prosecutions.

In announcing the sentencing, Becker and DeGabrielle commended the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston Police Department, the Sugarland Police Department and the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, for their work on this cooperative investigation and prosecution.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben Perez and Joseph Magliolo and Civil Rights Division attorney Jim Felte and Jared Fishman prosecuted this case for the government.