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Sept. 3, 2009

SAUDI PLEADS GUILTY TO VISA FRAUD AND SENTENCED

Court orders defendant to pay domestic employee $143,000 in back wages

(HOUSTON) - Mohammed Abbulazz Al-Zehairi, 43, of Houston, has pleaded guilty to committing visa fraud by submitting a false employment contract for an Indonesian domestic employee and has been ordered to pay the employee more than $140,000 in back wages, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. The charge is the result of an investigation conducted by member agencies of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) including the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

United States District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted Al-Zehairi’s guilty plea today after the United States presented evidence which proved Al-Zehairi never intended to honor the terms of a domestic employment contract he submitted along with a visa application for a prospective employee to the U.S. Embassy in Riyahad, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 12, 2002. Under federal law, to obtain a visa for a domestic employee, the contract between the employer and employee must includes terms that the foreign employee will be compensated per United States rules and regulations. Al-Zehairi submitted a contract which, among other things, stated the employee would be paid $1300 per month for working an eight-hour day. Based upon the representations in the employment contract, the United States government issued a visa permitting the domestic employee to travel with Al-Zehairi and enter the United States as his domestic employee. Evidence presented at today’s hearing proved that the domestic servant worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week with no days off and no holidays. During the six years she worked for Al-Zehairi, she was only paid a total of about $11,000 when, had the terms of the contract been followed, she should have been paid more than $150,000.

Al-Zehairi has been in custody since his arrest in June 2009 following the filing of a criminal complaint. Today, the court sentenced him to a five-year-term of probation. As a condition of probation, he has been ordered to pay $143,000 to the domestic employee which amounts to the difference between the amount she was owed for her six years of labor and the amount she was paid. 

The investigation leading to the charges was initiated by member agencies of the HTRA in Houston after an acquaintance of the domestic employee contacted the Indonesian consulate in Houston who, in turn, contacted law enforcement authorities. The domestic employee was removed from the defendant’s residence. The HTRA was founded in August 2004 to bring together the expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement to target those engaged in human trafficking and through non-governmental service providers to provide support and services for their victims.

This case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo.

 

 

 

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