The China Post/Asia News Network
Sunday, Jan 29, 2012

Former Taiwanese representative to Kansas City Jacqueline Liu was sentenced Friday morning in United States federal court for fraud in foreign labor after accepting a plea bargain which included a time-served prison sentence, US$80,000 in fines, and deportation.

Liu, 65, had been in federal custody without bond since being arrested on Nov. 10, 2011, and had pleaded guilty on Nov. 18, 2011, admitting to having fraudulently hired two Filipino housekeepers for her residence and having paid them significantly less than promised while forcing them to work excessive hours.

Under Liu's plea deal, US District Judge Greg Kays in Kansas City ordered her on Friday, Jan. 27, to pay US$80,044 (S$100,671) in restitution for the two victims, as well as an as-yet unspecified fine to cover the full costs of her incarceration and deportation, including the round-trip expense of the federal agents in whose custody she would travel, according to the US Attorney's Office.

According to the local United Evening News, the incarceration amount tallies to US$4,714, while the transportation fee is US$6,326 with a court fee of US$100.

The total amount Liu is responsible for, in addition to the US$80,044 restitution for the victims, is US$91,184.

Liu will remain in federal custody and be deported by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) - she would potentially return to Taiwan within the next two weeks, Liu's lawyer Jim Wirken stated after the court session.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, Liu was required to waive her right to a hearing before an immigration judge, in addition to compensating the two victims.

Liu was the Director-General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) located in Kansas City, Missouri. The TECO is one of 13 offices responsible for maintaining close unofficial relations between the people of the United States and Taiwan.

Overworking While Underpaying Housekeepers

Liu had admitted to the accusation of making a female Filipino housekeeper, who she recruited and solicited to follow her to the US and work in her residence, work 18-hour days, six-and-a-half days a week for only US$450 a month, when her contract promised a US$1,240 monthly salary for a 40-hour work week.

The housekeeper was also prevented from leaving the home without supervision or permission, watched over with surveillance cameras and was threatened with deportation. This took place between March to August, 2011.

Liu also admitted that she engaged in the same conduct with another employee, also a woman from the Philippines, whom Liu employed in 2009-10.

The victims have been certified as victims of a severe form of human trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, according to the US Attorney's Office, which means that the US government will support their efforts to get visas to allow them to legally live and work in the US

Liu's restitution payment represents full restitution for the hours her former housekeepers had actually worked.

Liu's Repentance

Liu's complexion had seemed better on Jan. 27 than during her previous court session on Nov. 18, 2011, the United Evening News pointed out.

The new head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas Yang Chu-chung, Deputy Chou Dao-yuan, other staff from Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and supporters from the local Taiwanese society were all present during the court session, according to the report.

Liu choked as she read aloud a letter of repentance her younger sister had translated into English for her.

She had ruminated on the matter during the past two and a half months in custody, and was filled with remorse as she realized how big the mistakes were, adding that she would like to apologize and compensate those she had hurt with great sincerity, the report said.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Cynthia L. Cordes. It was investigated by the FBI and the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, in conjunction with the Human Trafficking Rescue Project, according to the US Attorney's Office.

Although unable to practice law in Taiwan, Wirken asserted after the court session that Liu should not be penalized again upon returning to Taiwan, as she had already undergone serious punishment in the US

Taiwan's rep to Kansas to be deported after paying S$100,000 to victims