Maryland woman gets 12 months for harboring Filipina immigrant

A Prince George’s County woman was sentenced to 12 months in prison Tuesday for harboring a Filipina immigrant in a case that fell short of the forced-labor charges originally filed by federal prosecutors. The woman’s husband, a retired physician, was sentenced to three months in prison.

The couple will be ordered to pay restitution of at least $400,000, reflecting how little they paid the woman over a 10-year stretch, according to a federal judge’s ruling that was part of Tuesday’s sentencing.

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The couple, Gloria and Alfred Edwards, earlier had pleaded guilty to one count each of harboring the woman. That set off a three-day sentencing hearing in which prosecutors argued that the couple essentially held the woman against her will. In the end, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ruled partially in favor of the prosecutors.

Chasanow said the woman — known in court papers by her initials, T.E. — was vulnerable because she was uneducated, spoke little to no English and didn’t understand immigration laws. But Chasanow chose not to consider involuntary servitude as an aggravating factor in the case.

The judge said that Gloria Edwards, now 61, arranged for T.E. to come to the United States. Then she and her husband, now 75, kept her in their home to cook and clean. As part of their pleas, the couple admitted to bringing the woman to the United States under false pretenses and then taking steps to fraudulently obtain permanent resident status for her.

Chasanow cited photographs of T.E. that appeared to show her getting along with those around her.

“On a personal level, there was affection and camaraderie involved,” Chasanow said.

The judge also made it clear that she didn’t think the Edwardses were paying T.E. nearly enough for her services. “This was for profit,” she said, describing the Edwardses’ plan to bring T.E. to the United States and keep her in their home.

Federal prosecutors said in court Tuesday that T.E. worked in the home and had to be available to work on demand — an arrangement that amounted to 12 to 14 hours a day. Over 10 years, she was owed more than $200,000 in wages, prosecutors said. Under federal labor rules, she is entitled to double that amount.

Chasanow indicated that she agreed with that argument, saying restitution would top $400,000, but the exact amount will be ironed out at a future date.

The Edwardses are expected to pay T.E. $50,000 from an escrow account set up for the case. Upon release from confinement, they will each have to make monthly payments of $500 to T.E., according to Tuesday’s hearing. After Alfred Edwards completes his three-month sentence, he will spend an additional seven months under home confinement.

Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, said he was pleased that the Edwardses will receive prison time and will have to pay restitution in a way that will help T.E. immediately. “It was important that the victim get a fixed sum up front,” he said.

Robert Bonsib, an attorney for Gloria Edwards, said she is ready to put the matter behind her. “While we are disappointed that the court believed a period of incarceration was necessary in this matter, we are pleased that the court rejected the government’s request for a substantially more severe sentence,” he said.

 
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