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Closing Arguments Begin in Thai Forced Labor Case

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A restaurateur held four Thai women in slave-like conditions because she was greedy and wanted to maintain a high style of living, prosecutors said during closing arguments in the trial of a woman charged with harboring undocumented immigrants.

Supawan Veerapol is charged with forcing the Thai women to work up to 16 hours a day for a pittance, requiring them at times to sleep on the floor outside her bedroom.

She also was charged with seven counts of mail fraud for using the women’s names to open credit card accounts, then not making payments after running up tens of thousands of dollars in bills.

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Assistant U.S. Atty. Jack Weiss told jurors Tuesday that Veerapol also threatened to harm the women’s families in Thailand when the women tried to leave.

Defense lawyer W. Anthony Willoughby countered in his closing argument that Veerapol, the longtime companion of Thailand’s Swedish ambassador, “is not this demon they portray.”

Veerapol’s restaurant closed in 1997 and she provided the women with free housing and food, Willoughby said.

If convicted on all 15 counts, Veerapol faces up to 240 years in federal prison.

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