Woman convicted of keeping Sri Lankan national as 'slave'

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CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A federal jury convicted a New Jersey woman Thursday of forcing a Sri Lankan national to work for her for nine years without pay and even marry her so she could stay in the country.

Alia Imad Faleh Al Hunaity brought the woman to the U.S. in 2009 and forced the victim to clean her houses in Woodland Park and Secaucus and care for her three children without pay, prosecutors said. They also alleged that Al Hunaity forced the victim to sleep in the kitchen and in other common areas of the house.

Al Hunaity made the victim overstay her visa, prosecutors said, and they presented evidence that Al Hunaity eventually forced the victim to marry her in 2018 so she could obtain legal residence and not risk being deported.

"The defendant in this case treated the victim as a slave," U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.

After a six-day trial, the jury deliberated for two hours before finding Al Hunaity guilty of forced labor, harboring an alien for financial gain and forced marriage. The forced labor count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, while the other two counts each carries a maximum of five years.

An email seeking comment was sent to Robert Kovic, Al Hunaity's lawyer, who has previously said his client was not guilty.

Sentencing is scheduled for September.

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