US couple to face 30 years in jail for mistreating Kenyan house help

She was forced to work 24 hrs a day and couldn't leave the house so as to conceal her from authorities.

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A New Jersey couple could face lengthy in jail terms after being convicted in a US court for exploiting a Kenyan house help.

53 year old Michael Wood and his 45-year old wife, Mary could face prison terms of 10 and 20 years, respectively, for mistreating the Kenyan woman.

Federal prosecutors say that the two recruited the lady, identified in court papers as P.I., in 2005 to care for their four minor children.

Michael then gave P.I. his adult daughter's British passport and directed her to memorize the information and pretend to be the daughter.

Once in New Jersey, the Mullica Hill couple forced the woman to clean the house, do the laundry, cook and care for the children.

She had to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was paid $200 (Sh20, 662) a month. Evidence at trial revealed that the defendants would have been required to pay her about $5,200 (Sh53, 7212) a month under U.S. labor laws.

In a bid to conceal her from authorities, the couple asked P.I. not leave the house with the exception of taking the kids to school. She was also asked not to talk to anyone outside the house or family.

In June 2006, Mary Wood's sister and other family members moved the woman to their homes, where they continued to harbor her and exploit her domestic labor, authorities said. The woman managed to leave in 2011, prompting the federal investigation.

Six other defendants, including members of Mary Wood's family, have pleaded guilty to charges in Pennsylvania related to their roles in the scheme.

The two are due to be sentenced on September 7.

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