Secaucus woman convicted of enslaving Sri Lankan national for 9 years, forcing marriage

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A Secaucus woman has been convicted of forcing a Sri Lankan national to marry her and then enslaving her for nine years, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

U.S. District Federal Court in Camden. Photo via waymarking.com.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Alia Imad Faleh Al Hunaity, also known as “Alia Al Qaternah,” 43, was found guilty on all counts of the indictment against her following a six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court.

The jury deliberated for two hours before returning the guilty verdicts.

“The defendant in this case treated the victim as a slave. Al-Hunaity kept the victim in this country illegally and hid her away, in order to force her to perform household work for Al-Hunaity without pay, privacy, or the ability to move about freely,” he said in a statement.

“Through the guilty verdicts in this case and other prosecutions like it, this office continues to work to ensure that the evil of human trafficking is brought out from hiding and into the light so that it may be punished appropriately.”

Hunaity brought the victim, a Sri Lankan national, to the United States on a temporary visa in 2009 to perform domestic work. Hunaity caused the victim to overstay her visa and remain in the United States illegally for over nine years.

Hunaity then forced the victim to cook and clean her homes in Woodland Park and Secaucus, New Jersey, and to care for her three children, all without pay. She limited the victim’s interactions with the world outside of Hunaity’s homes, authorities said.

During this time, Hunaity required the victim to sleep on a bed in a public space in Hunaity’s homes, including in the kitchen.

In 2018, Hunaity forced the victim to marry her so that the victim could obtain legal residence and Hunaity could continue to force her to work without fear of the victim being deported, according to court documents.

The forced labor charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4, 2019.