[Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas speaks at an informal news conference after a hearing at the Santa Ana Courthouse in Santa Ana, Calif., Wednesday, July 10 2013. AP PHOTO/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER]

STA ANA, CALIFORNIA, July 15, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Amy Taxin (Associated Press) A Saudi princess has been charged with human trafficking for allegedly holding a domestic worker against her will at a California 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.

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

The 30-year-old woman 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, was paid less than she was promised and was not allowed to leave, authorities said.

"This is not a contract dispute," Rackauckas told a bail hearing Wednesday afternoon. "This is holding someone captive against their will."

Police say Alayban's family traveled to the United States in May with the victim and four women from the Philippines.

A 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. Her attorney, Paul Meyer, said the case was a contractual dispute and argued his client shouldn't be assigned a ransom-like bail solely because she was rich. He said she had been traveling to the United States 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.

The victim was working "around the clock" for the family cooking, cleaning and caring for children, said Irvine police chief David Maggard Jr. She had been promised wages of $1,600 a month but was paid only about $200 a month, Rackauckas said.

The other four women left the home voluntarily with police once authorities arrived. They told police they were interested in being free, Maggard said.

No charges have been filed in connection with their circumstances.

Alayban is set to be arraigned in court on Thursday.


Saudi Princess Arrested on Suspicion of Holding Maids Captive in Irvine

The victim who allegedly escaped from the building was 30-year-old maid from Kenya. The  other four women were from the Philippines, Engen said.  By Ron Rokhy | Thursday, Jul 11, 2013 | Updated 1:38 AM CDT

[Irvine Police Detectives arrested a Saudi Arabian national Tuesday night, for holding a domestic servant against her will. The alleged 30-year-old victim escaped the condo and flagged down help after being held for months. Authorities found four more women from the Philippines when they searched the home. Vikki Vargas reports from Santa Ana for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on July 10, 2013.]

CALIFORNIA - A Saudi princess was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of keeping slaves after police say a forced domestic servant from Kenya escaped from a three-story building in Irvine and alerted authorities.

Meshael Alayban, 42, was booked into jail in Orange County on Wednesday morning after police said they found four additional women allegedly being held against their wills at her building. Jail records listed Alayban's occupation as "princess."

All five women were in good health and showed no indications of physical abuse, officials said. The Saudi princess allegedly stole their passports and work contracts, and forced them to work long hours for less than $10 a day, said Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen.

“The laws of our nation and California do not tolerate people who deprive or violate the liberty of another and obtain forced labor or services,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement issued by the Irvine Police Department.

Alayban, a mother of three, may be the first person to be prosecuted in Orange County under a new law that increased penalties for human-trafficking offenses. She is one of six wives married to a grandson of the king of Saudi Arabia, authorities said.

The victim who allegedly escaped from the building was a 30-year-old maid from Kenya. The other four women were from the Philippines, Engen said.

Alayban first hired the Kenyan native in March 2012 to work at her home in Saudi Arabia, Engen said. They had signed a two-year contract guaranteeing the worker would be paid $1,600 a month.

In May 2013, Alayban and her family moved to Irvine with the victim, who cooked, cleaned, and washed laundry for eight people.

Authorities said the victim was working 16 hours a day for $220 a month – a fraction of what they agreed upon.

After searching Alayban’s residence, police discovered that five workers were all being held at the home on Gramercy Road just west of the 405 Freeway.

When police asked the captive women if they wanted to leave with them, they all said yes. Authorities were helping them find a place to stay.

Police were searching for the workers’ missing travel documents, which they believed were in a safety deposit box at a local bank.

The suspect owns multiple condominiums in the area, and she and her extended family reside there, Engen said.

Alayban was being held in Orange County Jail in lieu of $5 million bail. She was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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