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Walnut Creek Woman Convicted of Forced Labor and Human Trafficking Against Peruvian Nanny

October 25, 2009

OAKLAND (BCN) — A Walnut Creek real estate agent has been convicted in federal  court in Oakland of forced labor and other human trafficking crimes against a  Peruvian nanny she smuggled into the United States.

Mabelle de la Rosa Dann, 46, was convicted of five counts by a  jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken on Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello said Dann forced the victim to  cook, clean and take care of Dann’s three young sons for nearly two years  between 2006 and 2008 but never paid her.

Dann confiscated the nanny’s passport and led her to believe she  would be falsely accused of theft if she fled, Russoniello said.

In a related civil lawsuit, the nanny, identified as Zoraida Pena  Canal, said she was virtually held captive and toiled under “intolerable  conditions,” working 15 hours per day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days per  week.

Pena Canal said in the lawsuit that she slept on the living room  floor of Dann’s apartment and that Dann barred her from watching  Spanish-language television, destroyed a radio she had listened to, limited  the amount of food she was allowed to eat, and severed all communication with  her friends and family in Peru.

The lawsuit alleges that Dann “controlled every aspect of Ms. Pena  Canal’s life” and used “psychological manipulation and threats of violence”  to do so.

Pena Canal finally escaped on April 16, 2008, according to the  lawsuit. Russoniello said local residents, officials and parents at a Walnut  Creek elementary school aided Canal in fleeing.

He said a San Francisco-based legal services group, La Raza Centro  Legal, brought the case to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Custom  Enforcement, which then investigated the crimes together with the U.S.  Department of State and Department of Labor.

John Morton, assistant Homeland Security Department secretary for  Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a statement saying, “No person  should ever be forced to live in a world of fear, isolation and servitude,  particularly in a country that prides itself on its freedoms.”

Dann’s defense lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Jerome  Matthews, was not immediately available for comment.

The five criminal counts on which Dann was convicted are obtaining  forced labor, unlawful use of documents in furtherance of servitude,  harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, conspiracy to commit  visa fraud and visa fraud.

Dann, who is free on bond, is due to be sentenced by Wilken on  Jan. 13. The forced labor conviction carries a possible maximum sentence of  20 years in prison and the other counts have sentences of up to five or 10  years. Wilken is expected to consider federal sentencing guidelines before  determining the sentence.

The civil lawsuit is pending before Wilken and is scheduled for a  case management conference on Nov. 17.

Pena Canal’s lawyer, Nancy Harris, said, “Ms. Pena Canal feels  extremely vindicated by this verdict, which bolsters her unflinching belief  in this country’s justice system.

Harris said, “We are also moving ahead with a civil case to seek  redress for the injustices Ms. Pena Canal suffered, including unpaid wages,  labor violations and emotional distress.”

According to the lawsuit, Dann, a native of Peru who is now a  naturalized American citizen, recruited Pena Canal in Peru, where she was  working for Dann’s sister.

Dann allegedly falsely promised the nanny $600 per month in  addition to room and board, a private bedroom and bath and reasonable  conditions for working five days per week, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is based on a federal law that allows victims of human  trafficking to seek financial compensation as well as California labor laws  and provisions of the federal and state constitutions that forbid involuntary  servitude.

Dann’s mother, Teresa Vittet de la Rosa, a resident of Contra  Costa County, is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

Russoniello said that anyone who suspects instances of human  trafficking is encouraged to call the federal Human Trafficking Hotline at  (888) 373-7888. Anonymous calls are welcome.

(Copyright 2009, Bay City News, All rights reserved.)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2010 11:00 pm

    I wonder what happened to her? Does anyone know how many years she was sentenced to?

    • April 11, 2010 11:06 pm

      I wonder what happened to her sentencing? If you can tell me if you know, that would be great

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