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Secaucus Resident Charged with Enslaving Sri Lankan Woman for Over Nine Years

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NEWARK, N.J. – A Secaucus, New Jersey, woman was arraigned today on charges of holding a Sri Lankan national against her will and for years forcing the victim to work without pay as a domestic servant, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Alia Imad Faleh Al Hunaity, a/k/a “Alia Al Qaterneh,” 43, of Secaucus, New Jersey, was indicted Dec. 4, 2018, on charges of forced labor, alien harboring, and marriage fraud. She was arraigned today before U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in Camden federal court and entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. She remains free on $150,000 unsecured bond.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Hunaity brought the victim to the United States on a temporary visa in 2009 for the victim to perform domestic services. Hunaity caused the victim to overstay the victim’s visa, and the victim remained in the United States illegally, living exclusively with Hunaity for more than nine years. Hunaity forced the victim to work without pay, and limited the victim’s interactions with the outside world. In 2018, Hunaity forced the victim to marry Hunaity for the purpose of obtaining legal residence for the victim so that the victim could continue to work without pay for Hunaity.

Hunaity was arrested on Sept.19, 2018, and made her initial appearance that day before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Cathy L. Waldor.

The forced labor charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and the alien harboring and marriage fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The charges subject Hunaity to a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain to the defendant or twice the gross loss to others, whichever is greater.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael, with the investigation leading to the indictment.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Macurdy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defense counsel: Robert Kovic Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey

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