US family convicted for exploiting Kenyan woman for 6yrs as a domestic worker earning $200 a month, working 24hrs

By Jamhuri News Reporter


A couple in New Jersey has been convicted for roles in harboring and exploiting a young woman they recruited from Kenya and smuggled into the US. The woman is said to have been illegally brought to the US by the couple to care for their four children in 2005.

According to US Department of Justice, Michael Wood, 53, and Mary Wood, 45, of Mullica Hill, New Jersey, were on June 6, 2017 convicted for harboring and exploiting the Kenyan woman for domestic labor in their New Jersey home.

According to court documents, the couple traveled to Kenya in August 2005 and recruited a young woman, whom Michael Wood provided with his adult daughter’s British Passport and directed her to memorize the information and pretend to be the daughter. Upon entering the United States, Michael Wood presented the British Passport to immigration officials and represented the young woman as his daughter.

The woman was assigned all house chores which included cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cooking, and caring for the couple’s four minor children. The couple put the woman on call for 24hrs, seven days a week, with a monthly remuneration of $200. According to evidence presented at the trial, the couple would have been expected to pay the woman approximately $5,200 a month pursuant to applicable U.S. labor laws.

Mary Wood was also convicted of fraudulently obtaining naturalization as a United States citizen by falsely denying involvement in the criminal scheme.

Other relatives of the couple, including a sister to Mary Wood, are said to have moved the Kenyan woman to their homes from June 2006, continuing to exploit her until she managed to leave in 2011, prompting the subsequent federal investigation.

“The defendants acted out of greed and circumvented immigration law to exploit the domestic labor of a young Kenyan woman, for minimal pay,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler.  “Today’s verdict sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will continue to seek justice on behalf of vulnerable individuals and will hold defendants who violate our laws accountable for their crimes.”

Six additional defendants, including members of Mary Wood’s family, who continued to exploit the Kenyan woman from 2006 to 2011 previously pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to charges related to their roles in the continuing scheme.

The case was investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia, and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Anita Channapati and Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.