The wife of a Vancouver man potentially facing life in prison after being found guilty of human trafficking and enslaving their Filipina nanny says their lives have been ruined by the trial and the "shocking" verdict.
Franco Orr, 50, and Nicole Huen, 36, were accused of bringing live-in nanny Leticia Sarmiento from Hong Kong to Canada illegally in 2008 and forcing her to work in domestic servitude for several years until she called the police in June 2010.
In B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Orr was found guilty on all charges, including human trafficking, after 2½ days of deliberations by the jury. His wife was found not guilty on all charges.
Sarmiento, 40, has also launched a civil lawsuit against Orr and Huen. The West Coast Domestic Workers' Association is also seeking cash damages in an employment standards proceeding.
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Today, as Huen tearfully spoke to the media on the steps of the New Westminster courthouse, Orr sobbed uncontrollably.
"The only thing we are guilty [of] is being too soft-hearted," Huen said. "We should have never agreed to help her maintain the employment contract and bring her over to Canada. We thought we are doing something good to help."
During the trial, Sarmiento told the court she was tricked into coming to B.C. with the young family on the promise she'd work for two years before becoming a permanent resident.
The couple have maintained they brought Sarmiento over after she pleaded with them not to terminate her employment contract.
Sarmiento also testified she was forced to work long hours with no days off and no overtime pay, was only allowed one phone call to her family in the Philippines each month, had her passport taken from her by the family and was forbidden from leaving the family's Vancouver-area homes.
The couple's defence lawyer Nicholas Preovolos has said there are "serious credibility problems" with the complainant.
During the trial, he presented phone records to the court indicating someone at the house called the same number in the Philippines more than 90 times in the nearly two years Sarmiento lived with the family in Canada.
He also suggested Sarmiento had access to her passport, and he had previously said a keypad Sarmiento claimed kept the doors locked was merely for a home alarm that wasn't even turned on.
'Pariahs in their own community'
Huen said her husband and their three children now live in the basement of her mother's home.
Orr, who was working as a security guard earning $12 an hour, was fired from his job. And Huen, who is a realtor, had all her listings cancelled by her clients.
"They are basically pariahs in their own community," Preovolos said. "How will they live in this community? And how will they support themselves? The irony is, they may be driven out of B.C. while Ms. Sarmiento is welcomed with open arms by immigration officials with no hint of any blame on her for staying here illegally while knowing that she was here illegally."
Huen said her eldest daughter was asked at school why her parents were in the newspaper.
"I would like the people out there to know we are not the type of people the prosecutor described during the trial," Huen said, tears streaming down her face. "I believe we Canadian citizens must be protected by the law … we should not let the people abuse the system and find their way here by lying and I urge the immigration minister to look closely into this case."
Orr is expected to be back in court July 10 to set a date for a sentencing hearing.
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