Exclusive: Accused human trafficker calls charges ‘ridiculous’
A Vancouver man accused of treating his Filipina nanny like a slave in his home says he’s committed no crime, but the allegations have already cost him his job.
Franco Orr and his wife Nicole Huen have been charged with human trafficking for allegedly persuading the woman to fly from Hong Kong to B.C. in 2008, then holding her passport and forcing her to work up to 16 hours a day for very little pay.
CTV News spoke exclusively with Orr outside B.C. Supreme Court Thursday, where the defendant said the trial has taken a great toll on his family, and that he’s lost his job as a security officer.
“Who is going to pay for my rent? Who is going to pay for my food, my bills?” Orr said.
The accused called the charges against him “ridiculous,” and insisted the couple paid legal wages to nanny Leticia Sarmiento. Orr said he’s confident they will be acquitted when the trial is through.
“Next week when I testify, you will see what kind of person I am,” he said. “Now I am down to nothing. I’m being stepped on and humiliated.”
In court, Sarmiento took the stand Thursday to testify about her working conditions in the couple’s home. She said she was forced to work almost two years straight without a single day off, and wasn’t allowed to leave the house unaccompanied.
Sarmiento broke down in tears when describing the promises she said were made when she was being convinced to move to Canada, even further away from her three children in the Philippines.
She said the couple promised to help her earn permanent residency and that she would eventually be able to bring her family to live with her.
At one point, the nanny claimed Huen told her, “Canada was the best country in the world and people were very free.”
Her situation came to a head in June 2010 when Huen allegedly got into a physical altercation with Sarmiento, shoving her and dousing her with water. Crown said that’s when police rescued the nanny and began investigating the couple.
Sarmiento, who is also suing Orr and Huen for what she says are unpaid wages and overtime pay, is set to take the stand again on Friday.
The couple’s lawyer, Nicholas Preovolos, said his clients have received email and phone threats since the allegations against them arose, and they’re eager to put the case behind them.
“They would like people to reserve judgment until the case is over,” Preovolos said. “They are entitled to a fair trial and they are entitled to the presumption of innocence.”
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee