Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Worker Virtually Enslaved, Suit Says

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Worker Virtually Enslaved, Suit Says

Article excerpt

A Peruvian domestic worker is suing a pair of diplomats from her homeland, alleging that they recruited her under false pretenses and forced her to work in their Wayne home for up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for little or no pay.

Maria Rios Fun, 40, alleges that she was trafficked for forced labor into the United States last year by Marita Puertas Pulgar, the first secretary of the Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations, and her partner, Alexis Aquino Albegrin, a counselor in the delegation.

Rios Fun, who currently resides in Queens, alleges that she was virtually enslaved at the couple's Oak Ridge Road home from the time of her arrival last October until her escape on April 27.

Her lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Newark earlier this month, seeks damages for trafficking her into the United States under false pretenses and for breach of contract, restitution for unpaid wages, and court orders requiring the defendants to return her passport and other property and to stop harassing and threatening her.

Aquino Albegrin referred questions about the suit to an attorney, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Rios Fun, who worked as a housekeeper and babysitter in Lima, Peru, signed a contract that promised her fair wages and humane working conditions, the suit says. "Instead, the defendants preyed on her vulnerability, isolated her, and required her to work long hours for virtually no pay," according to the suit.

"Defendants Pulgar and Albegrin intentionally and outrageously recruited, transported, and obtained Ms. Rios Fun's forced labor and involuntary service through fraud and deception, and subsequently maintained and benefited from Ms. Rios Fun's labor and services through a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior designed to make Ms. Rios Fun believe that she could not leave the defendants' employ and had no choice but to keep working for them," the suit says.

Rios Fun was required to work about 16 hours a day, attending to the couple and their four children, cleaning the two-story, four- bedroom home, preparing meals, driving the children to and from school and day care, and other tasks, the suit says. …

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