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Saudi princess’ neighborhood a place of fabulous wealth

Saudi princess Meshael Alayban, 42, listens to her attorneys during her appearance in Santa Ana court.
Saudi princess Meshael Alayban, 42, listens to her attorneys during her appearance in Santa Ana court.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Residents in the high-end Central Park West community said they are used to having fabulously wealthy neighbors and enjoy living in a neighborhood with such ethnic diversity.

Meshael Alayban, the Saudi princess who was arrested this week on suspicion of forcing a Kenyan woman to work as a domestic servant, was among the residents residing in four luxury apartments at the Jamboree Road complex in Irvine.

One resident, a 63-year-old retiree who identified herself only as “Kay,” said she wasn’t totally surprised by the allegation since some of her neighbors grew up in other cultures and “are used to having servants, so they just go get them.”

A valet at the complex said there are many residents from Saudi Arabia and Qatar who reside at Central Park West and residents said it appears some entire families come for the summer.

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The complex’s website boasts of luxury accommodations with water features, over-sized pools, wine vaults, outdoor dining areas and wine tasting rooms.

At a nearby shopping center, though, residents seemed more surprised that someone in their community had been accused of domestic human trafficking. Prosecutors contend Alayban forced the 30-year-old Kenyan woman to work seven days a week, 16 hours a day and kept the woman’s passport locked up so she could not leave.

Laura Brown, 50, who raised children in Irvine and was sitting a coffee shop in the University Park Center, said the case was “appalling” and found it upsetting “for a woman to do this to a woman.”

Brown said she was reminded of an earlier case in Irvine in which a 10-year-old Egyptian girl was smuggled into the United States and forced into slavery by a family.

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That girl, later identified as Shyima Hall, was allegedly sold to a Cairo couple who then came to the U.S. Hall, now in her early 20s, has since become an American citizen and has written a book on her experience.

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jill.cowan@latimes.com


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