‘RESCUE PROJECT’:Claims made in an affidavit say a Kansas City TECO official hired a maid and underpaid, overworked and abused her at her office in the US By Shih Hsiu-chuan / Staff Reporter
Documents from the US Attorney’s Office have shed light on the allegations against Liu Hsien-hsien (劉姍姍), director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) of Kansas City, who was charged in a US federal court with fraud in foreign labor contracting, partly based on testimonies given by her staffers.
Liu was arrested by the FBI on Thursday on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining a Filipino servant for her residence and was remanded in custody until a detention hearing on Wednesday.
According to a press release titled “Human trafficking rescue project” issued by the US Attorney’s Office, Liu allegedly paid the worker, named F.V. in the case, significantly less than the contractual amount and forced her to work excessive hours and perform tasks outside the terms of the contract.
Liu hired F.V., who was living in the Philippines, in November last year, and gave her an employment contract for a domestic helper at the TECO, which was then used to apply for a B-1 visa for F.V., the Attorney’s Office said.
In accordance with the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, three TECO employees were questioned by FBI agents, and two of them, presumably Taiwanese, gave statements that corroborated the allegations.
The affidavit cited cooperating witness two (CW-2), employed as a director at TECO for about one year, as saying that Liu instructed CW-2 to pay her domestic servant US$225 when “Liu knew that F.V. was supposed to be paid [US]$1,240 per month.”
“CW-2 stated that Liu also paid her prior maid before F.V. much less than she was contracted to be paid as well. CW-2 said the discrepancy was very similar to how much F.V. was being shorted on salary. CW-2 said the prior maid went into a state of depression and stopped eating. CW-2 said that the prior maid was also physically abused by Liu. CW-2 stated that Liu had cameras installed throughout the residence to monitor F.V.,” the affidavit read.
Another cooperating witness, named CW-3, who told FBI agents that his position was similar to that of an accountant, said in the affidavit that “each time F.V. got paid, she was paid [US]$225 for salary and [US]$70 for Liu’s groceries.”
“CW-3 maintained copies of these receipts and showed them to the Affiant. (The receipts clearly document F.V.’s underpayment). CW-3 stated that these payments were much less than F.V. was supposed to be paid under her contract,” it said.
The affidavit quoted CW-3 as saying that “the previous domestic worker, prior to F.V., was being paid much below her contract as well. F.V. was supposed to be getting paid [US]$1,240 per month, or [US]$620 per payment. CW-3 said that Liu took F.V.’s passport and visa away from F.V. when she first got to Kansas City.”
Under the terms of her employment contract, F.V. was to work no more than eight hours a day, 40 hours per week, and her presence was not required inside the residence except during working hours, but Liu allegedly required the victim to work six days a week, 16 to 18 hours a day, and forbade her to leave the house without permission, the affidavit said.
Beth Phillips, US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in the press release that the charges contained in this complaint were simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence, it said.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Cynthia Cordes. It was investigated by the FBI and the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, the release said.