SETTLEMENT REACHED IN SERVITUDE CASE

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East County News Service

November 30, 2016 (El Cajon) – A settlement has been reached in the case of an El Cajon couple accused of keeping a housekeeper against her will as an indentured servant.

The victim, who asked to be identified by her initials, W.M., wanted to go home to Indonesia and did not want to go through the ordeal of confronting her alleged captors in court, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.  So prosecutors negotiated a plea deal.

Felony human trafficking charges have been dropped against Firas Majeed and his wife, Shatha Abbas.  The couple has instead pled guilty and been sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation on a misdemeanor charge of withholding W.M.’s passport.  They also paid over $18,000 in back wages, enabling W.M.  to return home.

The victim was rescued from the El Cajon apartment in March, after slipping a note to a visiting healthcare worker. Though she spoke no English, she was saved after the note was translated and Homeland Security conducted an investigation.

Her ordeal reportedly began six years ago, when she left her young children and husband in Indonesia to take a live-in housekeeper job with Dr. Haida Kubba in Dubai. There, she was held hostage, and was not paid for her work other than some payments sent to her mother in Indonesia. Kubba has denied those claims. W.M. was later shipped off to San Diego to work for Majeed and Abbas, the parents of Kubba’s wife.

She told authorities she was forced to cook, clean, and care for the couple’s children and elderly parents, working up to 18 hours a day.  They kept her passport and she had no money to leave, according to the complaint.

Rodolfo Cortez, district director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in San Diego, says his office has been seeing an increase domestic servitude cases involving vulnerable people such as immigrants.

The couple accused of holding W.M. hostage have said they plan to move to Tennessee in hopes of finding jobs there. 

But the ordeal is not yet over for their former housekeeper. She is free to return home, but the settlement did not include the cost of a plane ticket back to Indonesia.  The nonprofit organization Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition is raising money for her ticket. Donations can be made at bsccoalition.org, and specify that the funds go to W.M., who has been going to school and hopes to continue her education after finally returning home.