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Archive for Friday, January 27, 2012

Taiwan official deported, sentenced to time served

January 27, 2012

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— A Taiwan representative accused of underpaying and overworking two Filipina housekeepers at her suburban Kansas City home was sentenced Friday to time served and immediate deportation.

Liu Hsien Hsien, who is also known as Jacqueline Liu, pleaded guilty Nov. 18 as part of a plea agreement to one count of fraud in foreign labor contracting. Liu had been the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City where she was arrested Nov. 10.

The 64-year-old woman, who appeared in court in an orange prison jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, had been in custody since her arrest.

"I'm extremely regretful for the people I've hurt and the mistakes I've made," Liu read to the court from a prepared statement. She said her two months jailed at a private detention center in nearby Leavenworth, Kan., gave her time to consider the charge against her.

"My guilty conscience will ... remind me I must be a better person in the future," Liu said, her voice quavering.

U.S. District Judge David Gregory Kays sentenced Liu according to the plea agreement but also ordered her to pay $4,700 to cover the expense of her incarceration plus the costs of her return flight to Taiwan and that of any immigration official required to accompany her.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office is similar to a foreign consulate, although the U.S. doesn't recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. The judge said he wanted Liu's sentence to deter others in similar positions of power.

John Echard, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said the department "would not expect this (Liu's case) to have an adverse effect on the very positive relations between the people of the U.S. and the people of Taiwan."

Prosecutors say they believe Liu is the first foreign official to be charged with fraud in foreign labor contracting charge in the United States. Others have been prosecuted for mistreating domestic workers, but Liu was accused of violating a law covering the recruitment of foreign workers and their transport into the United States on fraudulent terms.

The plea agreement, which was announced Nov. 18, also called for Liu to pay $80,044 in restitution to the two women — one who worked for Liu last year and another who worked for her from 2009 to 2010.

The U.S. Attorney's office said each housekeeper received a portion of that amount based on 16- to 18-hour days, six and a half days a week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Cordes read a statement at the sentencing from one of the housekeepers, a 47-year-old woman who said she took the job with Liu hoping to make enough money to support her family in the Philippines. The woman, who was not identified, said she had felt like a slave.

Prosecutors accused Liu of telling the housekeepers they would be paid about $1,240 a month, work 40-hour weeks and would also be entitled to overtime. Instead, they say, the housekeepers were actually paid $400 to $450 a month, worked 16- to 18-hour days and were monitored with video surveillance equipment at Liu's home in Overland Park, Kan. They said Liu took their passports and was "verbally abusive."

Taiwan has appointed a new director for the Kansas City TECO, where Liu served as director general for two years. Her planned departure had been posted on TECO's website in October, just before her arrest. There are about a dozen TECO offices around the United States.

TECO did not respond to messages for comment.

Liu's lawyer, Jim Wirken, said it was unclear when Liu would be deported but that he was optimistic she would be leaving the U.S. early next week.

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