By Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is recommending that Romulo M. Almeda Sr., of Seattle, be sentenced to a five-year term of probation, with no fine, for his unlawful employment of an alien.
Almeda pleaded guilty on Sept. 25, 2013, and had already paid $90,445.95 in restitution to the victim, now 64 years old.
The victim, a former manicurist from the Philippines, came to the United States for employment, so she could help pay for her children’s schooling. A friend put her in contact with Almeda, who hired her as a maid, cook, gardener, and babysitter to his grandchildren. According to court documents, she was paid an average of $350 to $450 per month and worked 12 to 16 hours per day. Almeda took her travel documents and warned her not to tell anyone about her situation.
The victim was shuttled between Almeda’s family members in Washington and California. She was not allowed to attend mass, nor allowed to see a doctor when she experienced health problems.
In 2009, the victim was able to contact her sister in the Philippines, who was successful in putting her in touch with a Filipino couple that arranged for the victim to be rescued by a church pastor. The pastor and the Filipino couple convinced her to contact law enforcement.
With assistance from non-governmental organizations and friends, the victim “is now healthy, stable, and safe,” according to a Jan. 12 sentencing memorandum.
Almeda, a Filipino American, claimed that he felt he was helping the victim by providing her with employment. The U.S. Attorney contends that Almeda was exploitive and punitive, and “fueled her apprehension and anxiety about her immigration circumstances.”
In recognition of the defendant’s belief that he was “merely trying to help a national from his home country” and his prompt repayment of her wages in full, the government agreed to recommend probation instead of imprisonment. (end)