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Foreigner in servitude case arrested at NY airport

/ Source: The Associated Press

A military officer from the United Arab Emirates accused of keeping an unpaid servant while attending the Naval War College in Rhode Island has been arrested by federal officials after he boarded an international flight in New York City.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arrested Col. Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali at Kennedy Airport late Monday night after he and his family boarded a nonstop flight to their home country, said Jim Martin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Rhode Island. Al-Ali was held overnight in New York.

The naval officer pleaded not guilty last week to charges he lured a Filipino servant to the United States, then failed to pay her and kept her confined in his house.

Al-Ali's name was flagged by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Martin said. He said agents in New York received an arrest warrant from a judge in Rhode Island charging that Al-Ali had violated the terms of his pre-trial release.

The naval officer is expected to be brought back to Rhode Island to face a judge over the violation, Martin said. He said Al-Ali's family got off the plane when he was detained, but it's not clear what they did after that.

Prosecutors say Al-Ali and the Filipino woman, who has not been identified, signed a contract for her employment as a housemaid, working 40 hours a week for $10 per hour.

They allege that Al-Ali didn't pay her, took away her passport, forced her to work seven days a week — often until midnight — and refused to let her leave the family's East Greenwich, R.I., house alone or talk to anybody outside his family. The woman ultimately escaped and now is in hiding, according to prosecutors.

A magistrate judge ordered the naval officer released after his arraignment last week and restricted his travel to Rhode Island, except for trips tied to his studies at the war college, where Al-Ali has been studying since last summer. The war college is a Navy-run institution that provides graduate-level education to U.S. and foreign military services.

Al-Ali's attorneys did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Tuesday on his arrest.