New York: An Indian-origin woman, accused of keeping an illegal immigrant from her native place as a maid at her mansion here, claims the housekeeper is cooperating with the prosecution as she wants to secure permanent legal status for herself and her children to continue staying in US.
40-year-old Annie George has been charged with harbouring an illegal immigrant for private financial gain.
Prosecutors say George kept a middle-aged widow from India, identified in court papers only as VM, as a servant in her upstate New York mansion for five years without paying her adequately for her services.
George`s lawyer Mark Sacco said in a trial brief submitted in US District Court, Northern District of New York, that George`s late husband had asked VM to work at their home.
VM was provided a room, boarding and a stipend which was forwarded to her children in India.
"As an avenue to secure permanent legal status in the United States for both herself and her children, she has condemned my client," Sacco said in the trial brief.
George, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to go on trial on August 27 and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Sacco had sought dismissal of the charges and said the pay dispute of about USD 40,000 could be settled in a civil court instead.
Prosecutors say VM was offered USD 1000 per month for working as a live-in servant for George, her husband and six children. However, VM was paid about USD 26,000 for her five years of service at the George household that included cooking, cleaning and child care every day from 5:30 am to 11 pm all year round.
VM had no bank account, passport or identification documents and spoke limited English.
During the five years she worked for the George family, VM never saw a doctor or dentist and could not leave the house unless her work was complete.
Prosecutors say George should pay VM USD 256,000 in wages and USD 87,000 in overtime based on the minimum wage.
Homeland Security agents had found that VM had come to the US in 1998 on a G5 visa which permitted her to work in America as a domestic servant for a family associated with the United Nations.
VM had worked for an Indian family till 2005 after which she left her job for a romantic relationship that ended.
Having been left homeless, VM was taken in by a church which helped her find employment with the George family.
Assistant US Attorney Richard Belliss said VM is still in the US and has temporary status pending the outcome of the trial. She could testify at the trial.
Immigration investigators had removed her in May 2011 from the George household after her son in India called the National Human Trafficking Resources Centre, which says it has identified hundreds of similar US cases.