KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A high-ranking representative of the nation of Taiwan pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to fraudulently hiring two Filipino housekeepers for her Overland Park home in what the U.S. Attorney's office is calling a case of human trafficking.
Hsien-Hsien Liu, 64, admitted to making the servants work up to 18 hours a day, six-and-a-half days a week, for only $450 a month. The plea deal calls for Liu to be deported back to Taiwan immediately after sentencing.
Liu, the Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, is responsible for maintaining close relations between the people of Taiwan and the U.S. But prosecutors say that relationship may be strained after Liu admitted in federal court that she deliberately underpaid two housekeepers she recruited from the Philippines to work for her.
"If you sign a contract and it says one thing and it's not your intention to follow that contract to the letter when you get here, that's a problem," said Liu's attorney, Jim Wirken.
Liu had signed a contract with the housekeepers to pay each $1,240 a month for 40 hours of work each week. But instead, prosecutors said that Liu forced the housekeepers to work much longer hours, including weekends and holidays. The housekeepers were also prevented from leaving the home without supervision or permission, and Liu stole the wages she agreed to pay, watched over the workers with surveillance cameras and threatened the housekeepers with deportation.
As part of her plea, Liu agreed to pay the housekeepers more than $80,000 in restitution.
"You have to understand $80,000 in restitution is a very significant dollar number. Hopefully we've taken care of alleged victims. The government gets a conviction we've certainly taken care of their interest. The State Department makes a statement, they're going to go after people where this happens, that's done," said Wirken.
Liu remains in federal custody while the government prepares an expedited pre-sentencing report. The housekeepers have been certified as human trafficking victims, which means that the government will support their efforts to get visas to allow them to remain and work legally in the United States.