November 19, 2008

Walnut Creek mom charged with holding Peruvian nanny as indentured servant

Apparently, it happens more than we’d like to think in affluent communities like Walnut Creek: locals bringing in people from poor countries to work for them in slave-like conditions. At least, that’s what a spokesperson with the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement told a journalist colleague.

This could be the case with a Walnut Creek real estate agent and mother of three kids who appeared in federal court Wednesday to face charges that she smuggled a Peruvian woman into the United States and forced her to live in indentured servitude.

The Contra Costa Times reports:

Mabelle de la Rosa Dann, also known as Mabelle Crabbe, is charged with harboring an illegal alien for the purpose of private financial gain, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in June by Special Agent Jennifer Alderete of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Dann did not enter a plea and was ordered back to court on Dec. 3. Neither Dann, the prosecutor nor the federal public defender representing her could be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for ICE declined to comment.

The ICE affidavit says Dann held the 30-year-old woman in virtual captivity with threats of deportation and criminal accusations if she fled her Walnut Creek apartment.

The nanny came to the United States in 2006 after working as a nanny for Dann's sister in Peru, from where the defendant emigrated, the affidavit said. Dann worked with an acquaintance and a woman she hired to navigate the U.S. visa process to get the nanny a B-1 visitor visa, the affidavit said.

Once in the country, promises Dann made with the nanny dissolved, prosecutors say. Instead of a large house, private bed and bath, the nanny was sleeping on a living-room sofa and later, the living-room floor of a 900-square-foot apartment, the affidavit said. The nanny was made to work most of the day caring for Dann's three children and doing the household's cooking, cleaning and laundry, the affidavit said.

At one point, Dann began rationing the nanny's food, weighing meat she purchased and keeping a strict count of fruit in the house.

According to the affidavit, the nanny escaped with the help of La Raza Centro Legal, a San Francisco nonprofit organization that reported Dann’s alleged abusive conduct to ICE.

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