Saudi woman arrested in alleged Irvine domestic slavery case
A Saudi woman has been arrested by Irvine police on suspicion of human trafficking after a Kenyan domestic worker fled an Orange County home and reported she was held against her will as a slave.
Meshael Alayban, 42, was taken into custody Tuesday by Irvine police with the help of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She was arrested at her Irvine condominium for holding the 30-year-old Kenyan woman essentially as a prisoner, police said.
Alayban was being held in lieu of $1-million bail.
In addition to the Kenyan woman, police found four other workers being held under similar circumstances at Alayban’s home, officials said.
Irvine Lt. Julie Engen said Alayban lived with a husband and children. The family owned four units in a condo complex.
The Kenyan woman -- carrying a suitcase and a U.S. State Department pamphlet on human trafficking -- left the condo complex Tuesday and flagged down a passing bus, authorities said.
The pamphlet had been given to her at a U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, where she was issued a travel visa, Engen said.
A woman on the bus noticed the Kenyan national was in distress and aided her in calling Irvine police to report she was being held against her will, Engen said.
The woman, whose identity was not released by authorities, contracted through an agency in Kenya to work for Alayban’s family in Saudi Arabia in March 2012.
Engen said that when the woman arrived in Saudi Arabia, her passport and contract were taken from her by Alayban.
She told detectives she was required to work excessive hours and paid only a fraction of the agreed-upon salary. When the woman complained about the working conditions and asked for her passport back so she could leave, Alayban refused to give it to her, police said.
When Alayban’s family traveled to the United States in May, the Kenyan woman and four other women from the Philippines working under similar contracts went with them, authorities said.
When Irvine detectives and Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant on the condo, they found the four other women. They told detectives their travel documents had also been taken by Alayban.
Detectives were gathering evidence on the women’s circumstances and sought to recover the documents from a safe deposit box at a local bank.
The women left Alayban’s home voluntarily with detectives, and they, along with the Kenyan woman, were described as being in “good health.”
Detectives said they so far had “no indications of physical abuse.”
In 2003, authorities found a 12-year-old Egyptian girl sold by her parents into domestic slavery; she was forced to work as a domestic worker inside an Irvine couple’s home.
The Egyptian couple were convicted of human trafficking by federal authorities.
Since then, more than 100 cases of human trafficking have been investigated across Orange County.
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