Kansas City, Mo. A Taiwanese representative pleaded guilty Friday to a charge accusing her of violating a federal labor law by underpaying and overworking two women hired from the Philippines to work in her suburban Kansas City home.
Hsien Hsien Liu, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, pleaded guilty to fraud in foreign labor contracting as part of a plea agreement. Prosecutors accused Liu of underpaying the housekeepers and making them work 16- to 18-hour days.
U.S. District Judge David Gregory Kays said he would decide later whether to accept the plea agreement, which recommends that Liu be sentenced to time served and then deported immediately. It also calls for Liu to pay a total of $80,044 in restitution to the women — one who worked for Liu this year, and another who worked for Liu from 2009 to 2010.
“I hope the government will accept the plea agreement as we have worded it,” Liu’s lawyer, Jim Wirken, said after the hearing. “We need to remember this is a 30-year employee of the Taiwan government.”
Wirken said if the judge does not accept the plea agreement, Liu will withdraw her guilty plea.
Prosecutors have said they believe Liu is the first foreign official to face a fraud in foreign labor contracting charge in the United States. Others have been prosecuted for mistreating domestic workers, but Liu is accused of violating a law covering the recruitment of foreign workers and their transport into the United States on fraudulent terms.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that the government has already received two cashier’s checks totaling $80,044 and that each housekeeper will get a portion of that amount based on 16- to 18-hour days, six and a half days a week.
“The victims have been certified as victims of a severe form of human trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act,” the statement said. The U.S. Attorney’s office said the two will also receive special visas allowing them to live and work in the U.S.
Liu, who has been in federal custody since her arrest Nov. 10, appeared in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists. She quietly answered several questions from the judge in the hourlong hearing before responding “guilty,” when asked how she pleaded to the charge.