A jury in the State of New Jersey on Wednesday convicted a couple on charges of smuggling a Kenyan woman into the United States and exploiting her for domestic labour and child care.
Michael and Mary Wood could be handed prison terms of 10 and 20 years, respectively, at a sentencing session scheduled for September 7.
The Kenyan woman, identified in court papers only as P.I, was paid $200 (Sh20,600) a month and she was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for duties that included laundering, house cleaning, cooking and caring for the couple’s four children.
The couple arranged for the payment to be sent to the woman’s family in Kenya after deducting expenses.
The court was told that under US labour laws the woman should have been paid $5200 (Sh535,600) a month.
Prosecutors said the Woods “isolated P.I from her family and others, prohibited her from speaking to other people or leaving their residence without permission.” They also controlled her access to food and basic necessities.”
The couple also led her to believe that she would be arrested and deported if she spoke to anyone or left their residence without permission.
The woman was recruited when the Woods visited Kenya.
She was initially brought to Ghana to watch over the couple’s children.
According to the indictment, the woman travelled to the US on a fake British passport in 2005.
The Kenyan woman was subsequently made to work under exploitative conditions for Mrs Woods’ sister and other family members.
She managed to leave the Woods in 2011, leading to an investigation.
The jury found the couple guilty of conspiring to harbour an undocumented alien for financial gain.