The Herald Bulletin

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July 10, 2013

Saudi princess arrested in human trafficking case

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A Saudi princess was charged Wednesday with human trafficking for allegedly holding a domestic worker against her will and forcing her to work at an Orange County condominium, prosecutors said.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas identified 42-year-old Meshael Alayban as a Saudi princess who was charged with one count of human trafficking. If convicted, she faces up to 12 years in prison.

Alayban was arrested after a Kenyan woman carrying a suitcase flagged down a bus Tuesday and told a passenger she believed she was a human trafficking victim. The passenger helped her contact police, who searched the Irvine condo where Alayban and her family were staying, authorities said.

The 30-year-old woman told authorities she was hired in Kenya in 2012 and her passport was taken from her on arrival in Saudi Arabia. She was forced to work excessive hours and was paid less than she was promised and not allowed to leave, authorities said.

"This is not a contract dispute," Rackauckas told the court during a bail hearing Wednesday afternoon, likening the case to slavery. "This is holding someone captive against their will."

An Orange County judge set bail at $5 million for Alayban and required her to submit to GPS monitoring. He also banned her from leaving the county without prior authorization.

Alayban did not appear in court in Santa Ana. Her attorney, Paul Meyer, said the case was a contractual dispute and argued his client shouldn't be assigned a ransomlike bail solely because she was rich. He said she had been traveling to the U.S. since she was a child, owned properties here and had given her word she would address the allegations.

"This is a domestic work hours dispute," he said.

Rackauckas had asked the judge to deny bail for Alayban or set it at $20 million, saying it was unlikely any amount would guarantee a Saudi princess would show up in court. He said the Saudi consulate had already offered to cover $1 million in bail initially set after her arrest.

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