Vancouver man convicted of human trafficking for treatment of Filipino nanny

Matthew Coutts

He is said to have treated his Filipino nanny like a slave, and now he faces life in prison for human trafficking.

Vancouver's Franco Yiu Kwan Orr was found guilty of human trafficking on Wednesday, in a case that pitted him and his partner against a Filipino nanny who claimed she was mistreated, segregated and abused.

Orr was found guilty of trafficking and illegally employing a foreign national as well as lying to immigration officials about Leticia Sarmiento, who had worked for his family in Canada since 2008.

The Canadian Press reports that Sarmiento previously worked for Orr and his partner, Oi Ling Nicole Huen, in Hong Kong and was promised similar working conditions when she moved with them to Canada.

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Instead, she was forced to work 16-hour days, seven days a week, barred from socializing, owning a cell phone and forced to cook and clean their house, tasks not previously under her purview as a nanny. She also said her passport was taken from her by the couple.

The affair came to a head in 2010, when Sarmiento called police when an altercation surrounding the type of milk being given to the children turned physical.

A defence lawyer had argued that Sarmiento’s story was not honest and that she had been treated like part of the family. In the end, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Orr guilty of human trafficking. Huen was acquitted of similar charges.

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The RCMP's Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre says that as of January, 54 people have been convicted of human trafficking offenses, or offenses related to the act of human trafficking, such as forcible confinement and sexual assault.

Most similar cases surround sex trafficking, such as prostitution rings, but trafficking for the purposes of forced labour is not altogether unheard of in Canada.

Last year, a human-trafficking ring was dismantled in Ontario, in what is believed to be the one of largest human-trafficking rings in Canadian history.

Several people have been convicted for their roles in a criminal syndicate that brought as many as 19 people from Hungary to Hamilton, Ont., to work in construction for little to no pay.

Among the convicted was ringleader Ferenc Domotor, who pleaded guilty to being part of a criminal organization, conspiracy to traffic in human beings and coercing victims to mislead immigration authorities.

Orr will return to court in July to face sentencing. The charge of human trafficking could come with a sentence of life in prison, a penalty of $1 million, or both.

Photo courtesy The Canadian Press